North Yorkshire-based renewable energy firm Drax has submitted its application for planning consent to build a new underground pumped storage hydro power station which would more than double the electricity generating capacity at its iconic “Hollow Mountain” Cruachan Power Station in Scotland.
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.
The plant will be housed within a new, hollowed-out cavern.
Around two million tonnes of rock will be excavated to create the cavern, tunnels, and other parts of the power station.
Drax said the new power station could be operational as soon as 2030 with construction work getting underway in 2024, creating hundreds of jobs across Scotland.
The development – which could be the first newly constructed plant of its kind in the UK in more than 40 years – will provide critical storage capacity to strengthen the UK’s energy security and enable net zero.
It will be a major infrastructure project which will support around 900 jobs during six years of construction across the supply chain in a range of industries from quarrying and engineering, to transport and hospitality.
Around 150 on-site local construction jobs will be created during the development.
Drax must secure consent under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 from the Scottish Government – a process which will take around one year to complete.
“Alongside a successful Section 36 application, the project will also require an updated policy and market support mechanism from the UK Government,” said Drax.
“The existing lack of a framework for long-duration electricity storage and flexibility technologies means that private investment cannot currently be secured in new pumped storage hydro projects, with no new plants built anywhere in the UK since 1984 despite their critical role in decarbonisation.”
Drax’s Scottish Assets director Ian Kinnaird 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.”
Scottish Renewables chief executive Claire Mack said: “Pumped storage hydro is a critical technology needed to meet net zero.
“Over the last decade we have managed to develop the technologies to decarbonise the power system such as wind and solar, but what we really need now is greater flexibility to fully optimise those technologies.
“That’s why the success of long-duration storage projects such as Cruachan 2 is absolutely vital to Scotland and the whole of the UK.”