Cruachan is an underground pumped hydro storage power station built inside a hollowed-out cavern 1km inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain. Despite construction starting in 1959, its reversible turbines are still at the cutting edge of energy storage technology, enabling the plant to act like a giant water battery.Its turbines pump 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 Scotland to be greener whilst cutting household energy bills.
As part of the visit, Drax Group’s Scottish Assets & Generation Engineering Director, Ian Kinnaird, also outlined the company’s exciting work on plans to build a new second underground pumped hydro storage power station at the Cruachan complex.
“The UK has led the world in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable power, and Scotland has been at the forefront of this renewables revolution.
“Drax wants to go even further and unlock Scotland’s full renewable potential by expanding the iconic Cruachan pumped hydro storage plant in Argyll. These innovative plants act like giant water batteries soaking up excess wind and solar power so our homes and businesses can use more green energy when we need it most.”
The construction of a second underground power station at Cruachan would be one of the largest infrastructure projects in Scotland in recent decades, creating jobs and bringing much needed investment to Argyll. As Glasgow prepares to host COP26 in November, Cruachan shows how countries around the world can harness their full renewable potential, create jobs and cut energy bills for consumers.
When all four of its generating units are operating at maximum capacity, the plant can supply enough flexible power for around 800,000 homes.
UK Government Minister for Scotland, David Duguid, said:
Drax acquired Cruachan alongside the Galloway and Lanark hydro schemes in 2019, helping to make the company a leading provider of flexible, renewable power generation.
“It was fascinating to tour the underground facility and see first-hand how it produces high volumes of power in such an environmentally-friendly way.
“We need to embrace the kind of technology employed at Drax and the next Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan, due for publication shortly, will outline steps to remove barriers to smart technologies. It’s all in line with the UK Government’s ambitious climate and decarbonisation commitments as we strive to cut our emissions by nearly 80 per cent by 2035.”
Office of Scretrary of State for Scotland
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- Pumped hydro storage power stations act like giant water batteries, storing excess energy when there is an oversupply of power and then releasing when the country needs it most.
- This is especially useful in supporting wind and solar generation, storing excess renewable power to be used later instead of going to waste.
- Despite being a key supporting pillar for intermittent generation from wind and solar power, no new pumped storage plants have been built in Britain since 1984.
- Drax is currently progressing plans for a second underground power station at the existing Cruachan complex which could double its capacity.
- Main photo: Drax Group’s Ian Kinnaird (L) with UK Government Minister for Scotland, David Duguid (R), at Cruachan Power Station [view/download]
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.
Its 3,400 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.
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.
Pellet production and supply:
Drax owns and has interests in 17 pellet mills in the US South and Western Canada which have the capacity to manufacture 4.9 million tonnes of compressed wood pellets (biomass) a year. 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 mills supply around 20% of the biomass used at its own power station in North Yorkshire, England to generate flexible, renewable power for the UK’s homes and businesses.
Through its two B2B energy supply brands, Haven Power and Opus Energy, Drax supplies energy to 250,000 businesses across Britain.
For more information visit www.drax.com/uk