Drax beguns consultation on new pumped storage plant at Cruachan – but warns investment decision will not be taken without an ‘updated market support mechanism’

Drax Group has begun consultations that will lead up to an application for planning consent for a new underground pumped hydro storage power station that would double the capacity at its Cruachan facility in Scotland. But the company said reaching final investment decision on the project would require an updated market support mechanism from the UK government. It said, “The existing lack of a framework for large-scale, long-duration storage and flexibility technologies means that private investment cannot currently be secured in new pumped storage hydro projects”.
The 600MW power station would be located inside Ben Cruachan and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW. The new power station would be built within a new cavern to the east of the 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.
Drax must secure consent under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 from Scottish Ministers – a process which takes around one year to complete from the application’s submission. The first phase of the Section 36 application process includes public consultation this summer. People will be able to comment on Drax’s proposals for Cruachan via the project website from 1 July. Further consultation events are planned for later in the year, and an application is then expected to be submitted to Scottish Ministers in early 2022.
The company said, “With Section 36 consent from the Scottish Government, and an updated revenue stabilisation mechanism from the UK government, work to build the new pumped storage hydro power station could get underway in 2024, with it becoming operational, supplying flexible power to the grid, in 2030.”
Drax’s decision to pursue planning approval was welcomed by the local MP and MSP.
Brendan O’Hara, Argyll & Bute MP, said: “I am delighted that Drax is progressing plans to expand the Ben Cruachan site. This will support 900 rural jobs and create a pumped storage facility that will be able to provide enough renewable energy to power a million homes while helping us reach our 2045 net zero target, it is great news for this area and for Scotland.”
Jenni Minto, Argyll & Bute, MSP said: “Investment in new pumped storage hydro capacity could greatly enhance the flexibility and resilience of the electricity network and help us move towards meeting our ambitious global climate change targets. In the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow, it’s more vital than ever that we come up with innovative solutions to the climate emergency and ensure that future generations to reap the rewards of Scotland’s vast renewable potential.”
Will Gardiner, Drax Group chief executive, said: “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.”

1 comment for “Drax beguns consultation on new pumped storage plant at Cruachan – but warns investment decision will not be taken without an ‘updated market support mechanism’

  1. Jack Spruill
    July 4, 2021 at 1:27 PM

    Market Support Mechanism is a slightly veiled term for Government Subsidy. Drax is already living with both elbows in the trough of massive government subsidy to burn trees.

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