Powering Scotland into the future
Plans for Cruachan could be instrumental to Scotland’s transition to low carbon.
Scotland could be on the verge of a new generation of hydro power to rival the revolution in the glens which saw electricity taken to the Highlands in the 1950s.
Scottish Power today announced its intention to examine more than doubling the capacity of the iconic Ben Cruachan pump storage station – the world’s first high head reversible pump storage hydro scheme, housed in a gigantic man-made cavern.
Welcoming today’s announcement, First Minister Alex Salmond said:
“Combined with other planned developments around Scotland, this major announcement today heralds a renaissance in hydro and pump storage energy, and opens another chapter in our outstanding history of harnessing renewables.
“In 1945, fewer than half of the homes in the highlands had access to electricity. By 1959, that proportion had increased to over 90 per cent through the forethought and leadership of Tom Johnston, who led the hydro-electric revolution.
“Today, the Scottish Government recognises the potential for future development at Cruachan and other similar proposals for hydroelectric storage, to contribute to a balanced mix of energy generation across Scotland. This could see hydro power generate up to one third of Scotland’s entire generating capacity in the next decade.
“Together with other developments, this major extension of pump storage technology will allow us to build on Scotland’s powerful position as a world leader in harnessing natural resources. The plans for future pump storage development demonstrate that our significant and diverse range of natural assets continue to attract the huge investment in infrastructure that will enable the Scottish economy to flourish.
“This is why such proposals have been included in the draft National Planning Framework - as potential national developments.
“National development status establishes the need for a project. It does not grant development consent. Planning permission and any other necessary assessments and consents will still be required at the consenting stage. Any application for development at Cruachan will be considered on its own merits and a decision made only after all environmental impacts have been assessed.
“Increasing pump storage capacity will strengthen Scotland’s balanced energy mix and in doing so it can also enhance security of supply right across GB. With electricity regulator Ofgem forecasting a narrowing gap between English electricity generation capacity and peak demand, Scotland’s position as a net exporter to the rest of the UK is increasingly important to ensure security of supply across the network. It is clean, green, renewable Scottish electricity that will keep the lights on.”
The First Minister welcomed the announcement while on a site visit to Iberdrola’s Cortes La Muela scheme, Europe’s largest pump storage facility, completed in 2013, to see the scale of the technology involved.
Renewable energy currently supports more than 11,000 jobs in Scotland (Scottish Renewables, March 2012).
In 2012, renewable sources delivered 40.3% of gross electricity consumption in Scotland, up from 36% in 2011 and well on the way to meeting our interim target of 50% by 2015.
Renewable generation is already enough to power the equivalent of every household in Scotland.
Hydro investment in Scotland in 2012 was estimated to be more than £25 million.
Since 2007, the Scottish Government has consented 20 hydro applications, with a total installed capacity of just over 720MW
An expanded Cruachan could generate a total of 1040MW compared to its existing capacity of 440MW
Scotland was the one of the first countries in the world to harness electricity from its waters. That legacy is still visible. This ambitious post war hydro building programme resulted in infrastructure which still produces electricity today.
Onshore wind power is now the most powerful form of renewable energy in Scotland.
Figures published in June 2013 show wind generation in the first quarter of last year reached a record high, up by 11.5% year on year.
Wind power and pump storage hydro are highly compatible forms of renewable energy
Scotland boasts 25% of Europe's offshore wind resource.
Wave and tidal energy
Scotland has an estimated 25% of Europe's tidal potential and 10% of its wave potential.
The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) celebrated ten years of real-sea experience in 2013. There have been more grid-connected marine energy converters deployed at EMEC than at any other single site in the world and the centre remains the world’s only accredited marine energy laboratory.
The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters is the site of the world's first commercial scale leasing round for marine energy – and the Saltire Prize is the world's largest prize for marine energy innovation
The Crown Estate, which owns the sea bed, has awarded leases for just over 1.6 gigawatts of marine projects in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters - potentially enough to power 750,000 households.
Pump storage scheme is in effect, a large storage battery consisting of two bodies of water (reservoirs) at different heights.
During periods of low demand for power, surplus electricity is used to pump water from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir.
During periods of high electrical demand, the stored water is released through turbines to generate energy when it is needed.
As more wind farms are constructed it is anticipated that there will be periods when the energy generated will exceed demand e.g. when the wind is blowing across a wide area of the country, and this will be lost unless stored.
A pumped storage scheme can use this energy to pump water from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir, ready to use at times of high demand.
Pumped storage has the highest efficiency of all technologies currently available. It is the only the only technology that can be deployed at large scale.
Cruachan has installed capacity of 440MW and has been fully operational since 1967. It is the world’s first high-head reversible pumped storage power station. It attracts 60,000 visitors a year to “Hollow Mountain” visitor centre. In 2012 Cruachan received the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Heritage Award.
Early studies carried out by ScottishPower and Iberdrola engineers have identified that it may be possible to construct a new cavern within Ben Cruachan, and expand the reservoir above, with the potential to increase the capacity of the station from the current 440 Megawatts (MW) to 1040 MW.
The development of Ben Cruachan pumping station would be expected to take between 8-10 years and up to 1,000 workers could be employed during the main civil construction works at peak.