'Iconic' Cruachan Power Station to help safeguard Britain's energy supply

Energy supplier Drax Group said it has signed a six-year partnership for its “iconic” hydroelectric Cruachan ­Power Station in Argyll to help balance and secure supply and demand for electricity in Britain.

Cruachan Power Station is built inside a hollowed-out mountain. Picture: VisMedia/Jonathan Banks.

The Yorkshire-based firm said the new tie-up with National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) is part of a “world-leading” approach to managing the decarbonisation of the grid – securing electricity supplies, saving consumers money, and helping to enable more wind and solar power.

Drax has begun supplying critical system support services to the grid, and is the first of five providers to do so in a move expected to save ­consumers more than £120 million over the course of the contracts.

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Historic power station next to River Clyde restored to 1920s glory
The facility has teamed up with National Grid Electricity System Operator. Picture: VisMedia/Jonathan Banks.

Cruachan Power Station, which is built inside a hollowed-out mountain, pumps water from Loch Awe using its reversible turbines to fill an upper reservoir on the mountainside when demand for electricity is low – allowing the plant to act like a giant battery to store the water for when it is needed.

The facility has four generating units and, under the terms of the contract awarded in January, one of those will provide the grid with support services including inertia, which helps to lower the risk of power cuts.

It will achieve this through using a small amount of power from the grid to spin the turbine 600 times every minute, offering inertia to the grid to manage changes in frequency without generating unneeded electricity.

Drax said that as the country’s electricity system has transitioned from traditional sources of power such as coal to renewables, the need to separately procure inertia to maintain stable, secure power supplies has grown. Through the stability tender, the ESO has procured the same amount of inertia as would have been provided by around five coal-fired power stations.

Key role

Drax Group chief executive Will Gardiner said: “This new partnership underlines our commitment to enabling a zero carbon, lower-cost energy future. Cruachan has played a critical role in the growth of renewables over the last decade and this new contract will enable more wind and solar power to come onto the grid in the years ahead.”

Julian Leslie, ESO head of networks, said: “The GB electricity system is one of the most advanced in the world, both in terms of reliability and the levels of renewable power, and we’re really excited to be adding to that with this new approach to operating the grid.

“This approach – creating a market for inertia and other stability services – is the first of its kind anywhere in the world and is a huge step forward in our ambition to be able to operate the GB electricity system carbon-free by 2025.”

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