Drax progresses plans to upgrade existing Cruachan Power Station

Leading renewable energy company Drax is progressing plans to further support UK energy by increasing the generating capacity of its existing iconic ‘Hollow Mountain’ Cruachan Power Station.

The project, which is separate from the company’s proposals to build a brand-new underground power station at the site, could see two of the existing generating units upgraded, increasing their generating capacity by a total of 40MW, so they could power around 80,000 more homes – equivalent to a town the size of Paisley.

The work would increase the output of two of the station’s existing units from 100MW to 120MW each by utilising new design capability in pumped storage turbines whilst maximising water cycle efficiency.

Local people will have the opportunity to learn more about the proposals during an exhibition at Taynuilt Village Hall on Wednesday 14th September, 2pm – 6.30pm, when members of the project team will be on hand to answer questions and discuss the plans.

Ian Kinnaird, Drax’s Scottish Assets Director, said:

Ian Kinnaird, Drax’s Scottish Assets Director, standing in-front of a generating unit at Cruachan.

“For more than half a century Cruachan has played a pivotal role in balancing the grid and keeping the lights on across the UK. By investing in this 40MW upgrade alongside the creation of a new 600MW power station at the site, Drax’s Cruachan pumped storage hydro power station would continue to play a vital role in bolstering the country’s energy security for many years to come.

“We are keen to hear from as many people as possible during the consultation event in Taynuilt, so we encourage local people to come along.”

Cruachan is an underground pumped hydro storage power station built inside a hollowed-out cavern 1km inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain. Its reversible turbines enable the plant to act like a giant water battery by pumping water from Loch Awe to an upper reservoir on the mountainside to store excess power from the grid.

The stored water is then released back through the turbines to generate power quickly and reliably when demand increases. This process helps stop wind farms being paid to turn off when they are generating excess power, helping the country to decarbonise whilst cutting household energy bills.

In order to carry out the 40MW upgrade on the two existing generating units at Cruachan, Drax must secure consent under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 from the Scottish Government. This process is expected to take around one year to complete from the application’s submission.

If planning permission is granted, work to upgrade the existing two turbines could commence in 2026. The 40MW upgrade to the existing plant involves replacing existing turbines and generators and will not require excavation or blasting works.


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Editor’s Notes

  • Long-duration electricity storage (LDES) can be defined as technologies that are able to respond to supply and demand variations caused by daily peaks, weather events and seasonal patterns, providing power for more than four hours at their full capacity.
  • recent report by Aurora showed that the UK may need an eight-fold increase in long-duration electricity storage capacity by 2035.
  • Separately, a report by LCP published earlier this year showed the practice of curtailing wind power – which LDES  technologies alleviate the need for – added £806m to energy bills in Britain in 2021.
  • No final investment decision has yet been taken on the Cruachan 1 upgrade and this is also the case with Cruachan 2, with that development also remaining subject to the right regulatory framework with the UK Government.

About Drax

Drax Group’s purpose is to enable a zero carbon, lower cost energy future and in 2019 announced a world-leading ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technology.

Drax’s around 3,000 employees operate across three principal areas of activity – electricity generation, electricity sales to business customers and compressed wood pellet production and supply to third parties. For more information visit www.drax.com

Power generation:

Drax owns and operates a portfolio of renewable electricity generation assets in England and Scotland. The assets include the UK’s largest power station, based at Selby, North Yorkshire, which supplies five percent of the country’s electricity needs.

Having converted Drax Power Station to use sustainable biomass instead of coal it has become the UK’s biggest renewable power generator and the largest decarbonisation project in Europe. It is also where Drax is piloting the groundbreaking negative emissions technology BECCS within its CCUS (Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage) Incubation Area.

Its pumped storage, hydro and energy from waste assets in Scotland include Cruachan Power Station – a flexible pumped storage facility within the hollowed-out mountain Ben Cruachan.

The Group also aims to build on its BECCS innovation at Drax Power Station with a target to deliver 4 million tonnes of negative CO2 emissions each year from new-build BECCS outside of the UK by 2030 and is currently developing models for North American and European markets.

Pellet production and supply:

The Group has 18 operational pellet plants and developments with nameplate production capacity of around 5 million tonnes a year.

Drax is targeting 8 million tonnes of production capacity by 2030, which will require the development of over 3 million tonnes of new biomass pellet production capacity. The pellets are produced using materials sourced from sustainably managed working forests and are supplied to third party customers in Europe and Asia for the generation of renewable power.

Drax’s pellet plants supply biomass used at its own power station in North Yorkshire, England to generate flexible, renewable power for the UK’s homes and businesses, and also to customers in Europe and Asia.


Drax supplies renewable electricity to UK businesses, offering a range of energy-related services including energy optimisation, as well as electric vehicle strategy and management.

To find out more go to the website www.energy.drax.com