Drax moves forward with Cruachan expansion FEED, reiterates need for subsidy

Drax has appointed Voith Hydro to complete a front-end engineering and design (FEED) study for a proposed new pumped storage plant
Vouth Hydro will complete the design of mechanical and electrical components for the proposed 600MW underground plant, which would be constructed underground adjacent to Drax’s existing Cruachan plant near Oban in Scotland. Drax said the outcome will be a series of comprehensive reports, data and models that will provide a well-defined project scope, design, cost estimate, and schedule, enabling informed decision-making before proceeding to detailed engineering, procurement and construction.
Exploratory ground works are currently underway at the site, including seismic surveys.
Drax’s proposals received development consent from the Scottish Government last year, but the company said it would not proceed without an updated policy and market support mechanism from the UK government – that depends on the outcome of a consultation earlier this year on a new framework.
Steve Marshall, Drax’s Development Manager, said: “With the project granted development consent from the Scottish Government, we hope the next UK Government will continue policy development in this area at pace to enable a new generation of pumped storage plants to come online as possible.”
Drax is currently completing an £80 million upgrade to the existing plant. The project will see the generating capacity of two of the plant’s four units increased by a combined 40MW to raise the existing facility’s total generating capacity to 480MW.

2 comments for “Drax moves forward with Cruachan expansion FEED, reiterates need for subsidy

  1. James
    July 12, 2024 at 8:28 PM

    The expansion would more than double the installed capacity of this pumped storage scheme. The water storage capacity of the upper (Cruachan) reservoir will presumably not be increased. Therefore, the amount of power which the expanded scheme can supply as peaking power remains unchanged. More could be provided – but for a shorter duration.
    Is the cost of having this option justifiable? A comprehensive justification of its purpose and cost, if made freely and readily accessible from the Internet, would be in the public interest.
    The expansion may further reduce the grid’s need for dispatchable power (and system support) from elderly power stations which burn heavily subsidised imported wood. The rapid expansion of battery storage (including through vehicle batteries) and interconnectors which are being added to the grid will soon make such power stations redundant.
    The largest of these – owned by Drax – is likely to close in about 2027 (when its subsidies expire). As voters are by now well aware, it is the UK’s #1 single source emitter of greenhouse gas.
    Also, the grid must be decarbonised by 2030 – obliging the cessation of burning carbon, not merely fossil fuels, to generate electricity. The next General Election is due one year before 2030.
    If it is apparent that Track 1 and 2 CCS clusters are unlikely to routinely be operating as proposed by 2030, then voters – already skeptical and suffering climate-related costs – will vote accordingly.

  2. Jack Spruill
    July 12, 2024 at 2:12 PM

    Hydro pumped storage systems may have an important role in peak load balancing in some electricity generating systems. However, the reality is that all such pumped storage systems are net users of electricity. That is the fundamentals of Physics 101. The extent of such net energy consumption depends on the relative efficiency of the water pumps that lift the water and the relative efficiency of the hydro turbines that generate electricity when the water falls and flows through the turbines.

    It is clear that we cannot rely on Drax to voluntarily disclose that fundamental fact of physics let alone provide any pro forma modeling of the amount of electricity that will be used per unit of electricity that is generated by its turbines.

    Your May 22 article about a proposed pump storage system on Loch Ness by Glen Earrach Energy Limited does include the term “project efficiency.” https://www.newpower.info/2024/05/pumped-storage-plant-proposed-for-loch-ness/

    I suggest that New Power require every company to address this net energy consumption / efficiency issue in any coverage you give to their proposed pump storage projects.

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