‘Hollow Mountain’ hydro plant to double in size

An iconic hydropower plant in Scotland is set to generate twice the energy it does now under new plans by energy firm ScottishPower. The Ben Cruachan (pronounced cru-er-ken) plant sits […]

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By Vicky Ellis

An iconic hydropower plant in Scotland is set to generate twice the energy it does now under new plans by energy firm ScottishPower.

The Ben Cruachan (pronounced cru-er-ken) plant sits in a giant man-made cavern and the supplier wants to double its capacity.

Early studies carried out by ScottishPower and Iberdrola engineers found it may be possible to build a new cavern within Ben Cruachan and enlarge the reservoir above.

An expanded Cruachan could generate 1040MW compared to its existing capacity of 440MW.

If the project is approved, expanding the pumping station could take between eight to 10 years and employ up to 1,000 workers at the peak of building works.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said the news “heralds a renaissance” in hydro and pump storage energy in the nation.

He said: “In 1945, fewer than half of the homes in the highlands had access to electricity. By 1959, that proportion had increased to over 90% through the forethought and leadership of Tom Johnston, who led the hydro-electric revolution.”

Copyright: ScottishPower
Alex Salmond (c) & Ignacio Galan (r) – Copyright: ScottishPower

When seen alongside other planned developments, Mr Salmond said hydropower could generate up to one third of Scotland’s entire generating capacity in the next decade.

The Scottish politician today visited the La Muela hydro plant near Valencia with the CEO of ScottishPower’s owner Iberdrola, Ignacio Galan (pictured). Iberdrola recently dusted off a seven year project to double the capacity of La Muela.

Since 2007, the Scottish Government has consented 20 hydro applications totting up to more than 720MW.