AN £800 MILLION hydro-electric scheme – set to be the biggest ever in Scotland – has been given the green light by the Scottish Government.
Scottish & Southern Energy plans to construct the 600MW project at Coire Glas, near Spean Bridge, in Lochaber, with up to 150 jobs being created.
The controversial project had been opposed by numerous conservation bodies including campaigners claiming it could damage tourism to the Highland beauty spot.
Energy minister Fergus Ewing yesterday granted planning consent for the hydro-electric pumped storage generating station, which will consist of a dam and reservoir at Loch a’ Choire Ghlais, an underground cavern power station and tunnel system and an outlet area on the shore of Loch Lochy.
It is designed to “soak up” excess power generated by wind and wave farms, using it to pump water up to a reservoir. That is then released through tunnels to generate electric power at times when consumers need it. Supporters describe such schemes as “green batteries”, but opponents argue they use more energy than they produce.
While generating, it will have the potential to provide up to 10 per cent of Scotland’s estimated peak electricity demand, powering up to 600,000 homes .
The building programme is expected to last five to six years, creating 150 jobs during that time, Mr Ewing said.
“Energy storage has a key role to play as part of a balanced electricity mix in supporting security of supply requirements.
“Pumped storage stations can provide a valuable responsive supply to maintain the stability of the grid and help integrate renewable generating technologies,” he said.
“It is unique in the UK in comparison to other existing pumped storage schemes in its ability to release energy to the electricity grid for extended periods, offering an estimated 50 hours of continuous operation.”
However, Scottish Natural Heritage believes it would have a major negative impact on the local landscape and views would be significantly affected.