SSE Renewables pumps in £50 million to extend life of iconic Perthshire hydro plant by decades

SSE Renewables is to invest almost £50 million to extend the life of an historic Perthshire hydro plant by at least 40 years.

The “repowering” investment means that the Tummel Bridge hydro plant will be running in the power system of 2050 and so will play a continuing role in harnessing hydro power for a net-zero future.

The power giant will commence the refurbishment works in spring 2022 with the delivery of the works programme expected to support up to 65 construction roles at peak. It marks the largest single investment SSE Renewables has made in the refurbishment of its existing hydro assets in recent times.

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Tummel Bridge power station was commissioned in 1933 and is one of the oldest hydro power plants in Scotland. The power plant, which is housed within an iconic Category A listed structure, currently delivers around 140 gigawatt hours of renewable generation output each year. As well as generating its own power output, it plays a strategic role in efficiently moving water onwards in the overall hydro-electric scheme to the Clunie and Pitlochry power stations.

The Tummel Bridge power plant near Pitlochry, which is housed within an iconic Category A listed structure, currently delivers around 140 gigawatt hours of renewable generation output each year.

Under the repowering programme, the firm will replace the existing two hydro turbines at Tummel Bridge with new modern technology. This will result in increases to water flow, enabling an increase in the generation output at the plant from 34 megawatts to 38MW, with a peak output of 40MW during optimum conditions.

The repowering works are expected to be completed in late 2023, coinciding with the hydro power plant’s 90th anniversary.

Peter Diver, head of hydro operations at SSE Renewables, said: “Hydro power is Scotland’s original source of renewable energy and one which has an increasingly vital role to play in our path to achieving net zero carbon emissions in Scotland by 2045 and the UK by 2050.

“By replacing the existing turbines at Tummel Bridge with modern, efficient plant, we will be able to safely extend the operational life of the station by at least 40 years, meaning Tummel Bridge will be part of our future net-zero power system.

“By repowering the existing turbines with latest hydro technology we are able to make best use of the available water flow and head at the station to increase generation output and maintain our capability to reliably manage water flows through the Tummel cascade.

“And we are transforming power output at the site in a way that takes regard of the age and construction of the Category A listed building in which the power station is housed – a vital consideration for SSE Renewables in our role as custodian of this important and historic engineering site in the Scottish Highlands.”

Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, added: “A mix of renewable energy technologies will be needed if we are to meet our climate change targets, as well as smart systems to manage the way power is generated, transported and used.

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“Hydro, which provides almost a fifth of Scotland’s clean electricity, is an increasingly important part of that energy mix, providing as it does the flexibility to generate when power is most needed.”

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