Cruachan is an underground pumped hydro storage power station built in a hollowed-out cavern 1km inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain. Constructed in 1965, its reversible turbines are still at the cutting edge of energy storage technology, enabling the plant to act like a giant water battery.
As part of the visit, Drax Group’s Director of Scottish Assets, Ian Kinnaird, outlined the company’s exciting work on plans to build a new second underground pumped hydro storage power station at the Cruachan complex.
Drax is progressing plans to build a new 600 MW underground plant adjacent to its existing underground Cruachan facility in Argyll, Scotland. Increasing the UK’s pumped storage hydro capacity is critical to enabling more wind and solar power to come online, strengthening the country’s energy security while helping Scotland and the whole of the UK to decarbonise.
Ian Kinnaird, Drax’s Scottish Assets Director, said:
“Cruachan plays a critical role in stabilising the electricity system, balancing supply and demand by storing excess power from the national grid. When Scotland’s wind turbines are generating more power than we need, Cruachan steps in to store the renewable electricity so it doesn’t go to waste.
“Drax has exciting plans to more than double Cruachan’s generating capacity, a project that will support new green jobs and help our homes and businesses go greener by bringing more renewable power online.”
The Scottish Government’s Planning Minister Joe FitzPatrick said:
“Scotland has a proud history of hydro power and currently accounts for around 88% of total UK capacity.
“Our recently adopted National Planning Framework 4 is clear about the importance of pumped hydro storage and continues its designation as a national development. Scotland’s facilities have the potential to play a significantly greater role in the energy transition, while contributing to the resilience of electricity supply and creating jobs in rural locations.
“We continue to press the UK Government to ensure that the appropriate market and regulatory arrangements are put in place to support the further development of hydro projects.”
Pumped storage hydro plants act like giant water batteries, using reversible turbines to pump water from a lower reservoir to an upper reservoir which stores excess power from wind farms and other low carbon technologies when supply outstrips demand. These same turbines are then reversed to bring the stored water back through the plant to generate power when it is needed.
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.
When all four of its generating units are operating at maximum capacity, the plant can supply enough flexible power for around 800,000 homes.
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- Drax applied for development consent from the Scottish Government under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 in May 2022.
- The UK Government has pledged to introduce a new policy and market support framework to enable private investment in large-scale, long-duration storage projects by 2024.
- No investment decision has yet been taken by Drax and development remains subject to both development consent and an appropriate regulatory framework.
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
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 19 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