British power generator Drax will today submit plans for a new £500m underground pumped storage hydro power station at its existing Cruachan hydro plant in Scotland.
If approved, the project would increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW – more than double the current electricity generating capacity.
The plant will be housed within a new, hollowed-out cavern which would be large enough to fit Big Ben on its side.
Around two million tonnes of rock will be excavated to create the cavern, tunnels, and other parts of the power station.
Ian Kinnaird, Drax’s Scottish assets director, said: “Drax’s plan to expand Cruachan will strengthen the UK’s energy security by enabling more homegrown renewable electricity to come online to power homes and businesses across the country, helping to end our reliance on imports and cut costs.
“This major infrastructure project will support hundreds of jobs and provide a real boost to the Scottish economy. Only by investing in long-duration storage technologies can the UK reach its full renewable potential, and Drax is ready to move mountains to do just that.”
Kinnaird expects the planning approval will take around one year, with construction of the 600 megawatt plant beginning in 2024 and taking around six years to complete.
Kinnaird said the company would need market support from the government to enable it to go forward with the £500m investment needed to build the project.
The existing lack of a framework for long-duration electricity storage and flexibility technologies means that private investment cannot currently be secured in new pumped storage hydro projects, with no new plants built anywhere in the UK since 1984 despite their critical role in decarbonisation.
The British government’s Energy Strategy, published last month, said it was seeking to develop appropriate policy to enable investment in long-duration energy storage.
Image: Generating units in the Cruachan hollow mountain (Credit: Drax)
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