Plans to expand Scotland's 'hollow mountain' hydro power plant outlined to minister

A Scotland Office minister has visited the iconic “hollow mountain” Cruachan Power Station to understand its critical role in unlocking Scotland’s renewable power potential.

The hydro facility is set inside a hollowed-out cavern in Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain.

Despite construction starting in 1959, its reversible turbines are still at the cutting edge of energy storage technology, enabling the plant to act like a giant water battery. Its turbines pump water from Loch Awe to an upper reservoir on the mountainside to store excess power from the grid.

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Banff and Buchan Tory MP David Duguid also heard more about power plant owner Drax Group’s plans for a major new hydro project.

UK government minister for Scotland David Duguid and Drax Group’s Ian Kinnaird with Cruachan Power Station’s generating units behind them.

The firm’s Scottish assets and generation engineering director, Ian Kinnaird, outlined the proposals to build a second underground pumped hydro storage power station at the Cruachan complex.

He said: “The UK has led the world in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable power, and Scotland has been at the forefront of this renewables revolution.

“Drax wants to go even further and unlock Scotland’s full renewable potential by expanding the iconic Cruachan pumped hydro storage plant in Argyll. These innovative plants act like giant water batteries soaking up excess wind and solar power so our homes and businesses can use more green energy when we need it most.”

The construction of a second underground power station at Cruachan would be one of the largest infrastructure projects in Scotland in recent decades, creating jobs and bringing investment to Argyll.

When all four of its generating units are operating at maximum capacity, the plant can supply enough flexible power for around 800,000 homes.

Duguid, said: “It was fascinating to tour the underground facility and see first-hand how it produces high volumes of power in such an environmentally-friendly way.

“We need to embrace the kind of technology employed at Drax and the next Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan, due for publication shortly, will outline steps to remove barriers to smart technologies. It’s all in line with the UK government’s ambitious climate and decarbonisation commitments as we strive to cut our emissions by nearly 80 per cent by 2035.”

Drax acquired Cruachan alongside the Galloway and Lanark hydro schemes in 2019.

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