Drax consent for £500m Cruachan hydro expansion

Renewable energy firm Drax Group said it has secured development consent from the Scottish Government for its plans to build a new £500 million underground pumped storage hydro plant at its existing Cruachan facility in Argyll.

“The decision, made through the Section 36 process, is a significant moment in Scotland’s journey to net zero, with new long-duration storage plants critical to enabling more wind and solar power to come online in the next decade,” said Drax.

“Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf visited Drax’s iconic power station on the shores of Loch Awe today (Tuesday), where he underlined his call for the UK Government ‘to provide an appropriate market mechanism for hydro power and other long duration energy storage technologies.’

“Mr Yousaf recently wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to take action so developers can have the certainty required to build a new generation of pumped storage hydro plants.”

Drax said the new 600 MW plant at Cruachan is part of a wider £7 billion strategic investment plan by the firm in clean energy technologies between 2024 and 2030, such as long duration storage and Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), which tackle climate change and enhance national energy security.

“Constructed adjacent to the existing underground facility, the plant would effectively more than double the site’s total generation capacity to over 1 GW,” said Drax.

“Growing the UK’s pumped storage hydro capacity is crucial to integrating more wind and solar power onto the energy grid, enhancing the nation’s energy security while tackling climate change.

“Pumped storage plants act like giant water batteries by using reversible turbines to pump water from a lower reservoir to an upper reservoir which stores excess power from sources such as wind farms when supply outstrips demand.

“These same turbines are then reversed to bring the stored water back through the plant to generate power when the country needs it. ”

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said: “This is a major milestone in Drax’s plans to build Britain’s first new pumped storage hydro plant in a generation.

“These plants play a critical role in stabilising the electricity system, helping to balance supply and demand through storing excess power from the national grid.

“When Scotland’s wind turbines are generating more power than we need, Cruachan steps in to store the renewable electricity so it doesn’t go to waste.

“With the right support from the UK Government, Drax will invest c.£500m to more than double Cruachan’s generating capacity and support almost 1,000 jobs across the supply chain during construction.”