Cruachan 2 planning application

We have kickstarted the planning process to build a new underground pumped hydro storage power station – more than doubling the electricity generating capacity at Cruachan.

The 600 megawatt (MW) power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1 gigawatt (GW).

The new power station would be built within a new, hollowed-out cavern which would be large enough to fit Big Ben on its side, to the east of Drax’s existing 440MW pumped storage hydro station.

More than a million tonnes of rock would be excavated to create the cavern and other parts of the power station. The existing upper reservoir, which can hold 2.4 billion gallons of water, has the capacity to serve both power stations.

S.36 Application

Drax has submitted an application to Scottish Ministers under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989, seeking permission for the construction and operation of an electricity generating station.  The proposals are an expansion of the existing Cruachan Pumped Storage Hydro-electric (PSH) generation station, and will be capable of operating independently.

An artist's impression of Cruachan 2 (top) and the existing Cruachan Power Station (bottom)

Why Cruachan 2?

Great Britain’s energy storage capacity will need to grow to around 30 gigawatts (GW) or more over the next 20 to 30 years, from 3 GW in 2020, found analysis for Drax Electric Insights by researchers at Imperial College London and Apricum.

Six projects currently under development in Scotland, including Cruachan 2, will more than double the UK’s pumped storage hydro capacity to 7.7GW, create almost 15,000 jobs and generate up to £5.8 billion for the UK economy by 2035, a report by Scottish Renewables and BiGGAR Economics has found.

‘The Economic Impact of Pumped Storage Hydro’ studied the economic impact of six pumped storage hydro projects currently in development in Scotland. These projects, if constructed, would add 4.9GW to the UK’s existing capacity of 2.8GW to go over halfway towards achieving the 15GW of capacity that is expected to be needed by 2050.

The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) advised that a new market mechanism is needed before projects such as Cruachan 2 can be deployed. The REA’s 2021 report said that some 30 GW of longer-duration energy storage capacity is necessary for the UK economy to be net zero by 2050.

Cruachan 2 is on the European Union’s 4th list of Projects of Common Interest.

A 2016 feasibility study indicated it would be possible to develop up to 600 megawatts (MW) of additional capacity at Cruachan Power Station, our pumped storage hydro plant in Scotland. The study was published two years after the Scottish Government’s third National Planning Framework, setting out a long-term vision for development and investment across Scotland over the next 20 to 30 years, commented:

“… we particularly support development at Cruachan in Argyll, a nationally important pumped storage facility with significant potential for enhanced capacity.”

Cruachan Power Station
Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner

“This is an exciting and important project which underlines Drax’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis and supporting the energy system as it continues to decarbonise. Our plans to expand Cruachan will unlock more renewable electricity to power homes and businesses across the country, and support hundreds of new jobs in rural Scotland.

“Last year, the UK’s lack of energy storage capacity meant wind farms had to be paid to turn off and we lost out on enough renewable power to supply a million homes. We need to stop renewable power from going to waste by storing it, and Drax is ready to move mountains to do just that.”

— Will Gardiner, CEO, Drax, June 2021

Cruachan Power Station

Cruachan Power Station [click to view/download]

“Electricity storage, including pumped hydro storage, has a key role to play in helping the UK end its contribution to climate change by 2050.

“We are making significant progress in ensuring this technology can enter the market, and compete fairly alongside other, more established forms of energy.

“As set out in our Energy White Paper, we will outline our next steps for removing barriers to the deployment of large scale and longer duration electricity storage shortly.”

— UK Government spokeswoman quoted by BBC News, June 2021