July 8, 2021: Scottish renewable energy firm Drax has started the planning permission process to expand its pumped storage hydro plant in Scotland by 600MW, more than doubling current capacity and generating enough power for around a million homes.
The new plant will be inside Ben Cruachan — the tallest mountain in the Argyll area — and the project will require removing a million tonnes of rock to hollow it out, leaving a cavern that would be large enough to contain Scotland’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis (1,345 metres), laid on its side, the firm says.
“Last year, the UK’s lack of energy storage capacity meant wind farms had to be paid to turn off supply and we lost out on enough renewable power to supply a million homes,” said Drax CEO Will Gardiner.
“We need to stop renewable power from going to waste by storing it, and Drax is ready to move mountains to do just that.”
“The existing upper reservoir, which can hold 2.4 billion gallons of water, has the capacity to serve both power stations,” Drax says. “Like Drax’s existing site, the new station will be able to provide lifeline stability services to the power system alongside, acting like a giant water battery.”
Turbines powered by wind farms will pump water from the lower lake, Loch Awe, to the upper reservoir on the mountain side, and when needed the water will be released back through them to generate power.
“This will help to cut energy costs by reducing the need for wind farms to be paid to turn off when they are generating excess power,” says Drax.
The announcement is timely, given that Scotland is due to host the COP26 meetings in Glasgow on October 31-November 12, when world leaders will meet to discuss the Paris Agreement and UN Framework Convention on climate change.
‘Ben’ means ‘mountain’ in Gaelic. While ‘Cruachan’ means ‘insurmountable mountain peak’, it is also thought to be the battle cry of the Campbell clan.