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2 minute read - 27th July 2023

Drax secures green light for £500m hydro plant

Drax Group has secured development consent from the Scottish Government for the construction of a new £500m underground pumped storage hydro plant at its existing Cruachan facility in Argyll. The company said the decision is a significant moment in Scotland’s journey to net zero, with new long-duration storage plants critical to enabling more wind and solar power to come online in the next decade.

The new 600 MW plant at Cruachan is part of a wider £7bn strategic investment plan by Drax in clean energy technologies between 2024 and 2030, such as long duration storage and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), which tackle climate change and enhance national energy security. Constructed adjacent to the existing underground facility, the plant would more than double the site’s total generation capacity to over 1 GW.

Drax Group has secured planning consent for a new £500m underground pumped storage hydro plant in Scotland / Picture: Drax Group

Drax added that growing the UK’s pumped storage hydro capacity is crucial to integrating more wind and solar power onto the energy grid, enhancing the nation’s energy security while tackling climate change. Pumped storage plants act like giant water batteries by using reversible turbines to pump water from a lower reservoir to an upper reservoir which stores excess power from sources such as wind farms when supply outstrips demand. These same turbines are then reversed to bring the stored water back through the plant to generate power when the country needs it.

Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group, said: “This is a major milestone in Drax’s plans to build Britain’s first new pumped storage hydro plant in a generation. These plants play a critical role in stabilising the electricity system, helping to balance supply and demand through 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. With the right support from the UK Government, Drax will invest c.£500m to more than double Cruachan’s generating capacity and support almost 1,000 jobs across the supply chain during construction.”

The expansion of Cruachan requires an updated financial stabilisation mechanism from the UK Government. The current absence of a framework for large-scale, long-duration storage technologies has resulted in no new plants being constructed in the UK since 1984, despite their critical role in the decarbonisation process.

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.

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