‘Hollow Mountain’: Drax submits plans to expand pumped storage hydropower station

The power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and become the first newly-constructed plant of its kind in more than 40 years

Big Zero Report 2022

Drax has applied for planning consent to expand the pumped storage hydropower capacity at its iconic ‘Hollow Mountain’ Cruachan facility in Scotland.

The new plans would more than double the electricity generating capacity at the hydropower station, with the development becoming the first newly-constructed plant of its kind in more than 40 years.

The up to 600MW power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW.

It will be housed within a new, hollowed-out cavern, with around two million tonnes of rock to be excavated to create the cavern, tunnels and other parts of the power station.

The new plant, which could be operational in 2030, will provide stability services to the power system by acting like a giant water battery.

It will use reversible turbines to pump water from Loch Awe to the upper reservoir on the mountainside to store excess electricity from wind farms and other low carbon technologies when supply outstrips demand and then use the stored water to generate power when needed.

The project is expected to support around 900 jobs during six years of construction across the supply chain, including 150 onsite local construction jobs.

Kinnaird, Drax’s Scottish Assets Director said: “Drax’s plan to expand Cruachan will strengthen the UK’s energy security by enabling more homegrown renewable electricity to come online to power homes and businesses across the country, helping to end our reliance on imports and cut costs. This major infrastructure project will support hundreds of jobs and provide a real boost to the Scottish economy.

“Only by investing in long-duration storage technologies can the UK reach its full renewable potential and Drax is ready to move mountains to do just that.”

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