£30m Glasa hydro energy plant given green light

SSE has confirmed it is to proceed with a £30million hydro scheme in the Highlands – the largest to be built in the UK for five years.

Construction of the Glasa scheme on the Kildermorie Estate near Ardross in Ross-shire will start in late summer this year.

Once complete, expected in the autumn of 2015, the 7.5megawatt plant will generate enough renewable energy to power around 10,000 homes.

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The workforce on the project will vary but it is expected that SSE and contractors’ staff will reach over 100 at the peak of construction activities.

Today’s announcement comes in the 70th anniversary year of large scale hydro development in Scotland, kick-started by the introduction of the Hydro-Electric Development Act (Scotland) in 1943.

It has led to the subsequent development of over 50 dams and power stations, all of which still provide a reliable source of renewable electricity to this day.

SSE is also proposing a significantly larger pumped storage hydro scheme, Coire Glas, on Loch Lochy, in the Great Glen.

The 600MW scheme is currently awaiting planning consent from Scottish Ministers.

Jim Smith, SSE’s managing director of renewables, said: “Scotland and SSE share a strong legacy of hydro-electric power and I am delighted to be able to announce our investment in the Glasa scheme in what is the 70th anniversary year of large scale hydro development in Scotland.

“I believe that hydro has an important role to play in the decarbonisation of our generation fleet and in providing a flexible and reliable source of electricity within a balanced energy mix.

“The support given by the Scottish Government in retaining the ROC banding for new hydro effectively led to SSE’s decision to proceed with the Glasa scheme.

“There are many more challenges to overcome in order to progress with larger projects such as Coire Glas and it is essential that policy makers recognise the benefits new pumped storage hydro will bring to the GB electricity market and ensure the right support mechanisms are in place.”

First Minister Alex Salmond, who is delivering the inaugural Tom Johnston lecture at the Scottish Renewables Hydro Anniversary Dinner this evening, welcomed today’s announcement.

He said: “Hydro-electric and its role in producing Scotland’s energy is one of the greatest industrial success stories of post-war Britain.

“Hydro drove not only industrial development but also immense social achievement – something which still rings true today as the Scottish Government continues to grow delivery of clean energy through renewables schemes for the 21st Century.”

The scheme will consist of a new dam and storage reservoir at the head of Gleann Mhuire, a buried pipeline running down the glen and a powerhouse with associated tailrace built next to the Abhainn na Glasa upstream of Kildermorie Lodge.

The power station will be connected to the electricity network via a new 17km buried 33kV cable to the existing substation at Alness.

Rob Gibson, SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said: “In Easter Ross we have nearly every element of renewable engineering and development.

“The small hydroelectric scheme, previously called Kildermorie and approved in 2010, will add to the renewables mix. It will provide more jobs and opportunities for local employment. Scotland, like Norway, can be powered by nature.

“On the 70th anniversary of the passage of the Hydro Electric Act it is very fitting that a hydro scheme in the heart of Ross-shire should join all the other schemes which have been running since commissioned in decades past. Glasa will join an honourable line of hydro electric power stations that produce clean green power from the heart of the Highlands.”