Drax Group has secured development consent from the Scottish Government for plans to build a new underground pumped storage hydro plant at its existing Cruachan facility in Argyll.
The Cruachan expansion project will see the construction of a new, linked, underground power station, providing up to 600 megawatts of additional generating capacity, linking to the National Grid in 2030.
Renewable energy company Drax hopes to invest around £500m to more than double the site’s generating capacity.
The new plant at Cruachan is part of a wider £7bn strategic investment plan by Drax in clean energy technologies between 2024 and 2030.
Stantec, a global leader in sustainable design and engineering services, has supported Drax in gaining consent from the Scottish Government to expand the Cruachan site.
Stantec’s interdisciplinary teams appointed by Drax, the owner and operator of Cruachan Power Station, provided technical, environmental, planning and consenting and design services in support of the application.
The fully integrated services provided by Stantec, delivered significant efficiencies in the consenting process for the project and resulted in Scottish Ministers’ approval under Section.36 of the Electricity Act in July.
Pumped storage hydro schemes provide critical and efficient back-up power to the national grid during periods of excess demand and when other sources are not available.
The technology addresses intermittency issues with other renewable forms of electricity and supports the stability of the grid.
The expansion of the facility will have a significant beneficial impact on the country’s energy storage capacity, supporting the UK’s transition to net zero.
Built in the 1960s, the existing Cruachan power station is one of only four active pumped storage facilities in the UK.
Locating the new power station adjacent to the existing one offers the opportunity to develop large scale energy storage capacity whilst maximising use of existing assets in Cruachan Reservoir and access roads and minimising disturbance to the surrounding environment.
Stantec’s collaborative approach between the design, environmental and consenting teams produced a concept design for the project, that was refined over time taking into account the environmental sensitivities of the location.
Proposals were further honed through a public consultation process managed by Stantec, and informed by a range of technical, social and environmental assessments.
Lynsey Fraser, planning director, energy at Stantec, said: “We need to do everything we can to fast-track innovative, sustainable energy projects like this.
“As we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, we must build energy storage and renewable generation capacity to ensure electricity demand can be met in the context of climate change.
“The Cruachan expansion scheme is a fantastic example of an energy project directly benefiting local communities.
“It will deliver material boosts to job numbers, and local economic activity, whilst enabling the roll-out of low-carbon power. The expansion of Cruachan will also support national energy resilience and stability.”
Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, added: “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 during construction.”
No investment decision has yet been taken by Drax and development remains subject to an appropriate regulatory framework among other considerations.
The importance of the expansion is reflected in the project’s recognition as a National Development under Scotland’s National Planning Framework.