£3bn pumped hydro storage project slated for Loch Ness

Glen Earrach Energy (GEE) has today (17 May) unveiled plans to develop a £3bn, 2GW pumped hydro storage project, located near Loch Ness in Scotland, that could generate enough clean energy to power one million homes each year.

£3bn pumped hydro storage project slated for Loch Ness

GEE is aiming to build the UK’s most efficient pumped storage hydro project. Located at the Balmacaan Estate near Loch Ness, the £2-3bn project is expected to deliver up to 30 gigawatt-hours of clean energy. The project will also create at least 600 onsite jobs over a six-year construction period, as well as boosting the local supply chain.

GEE’s project is estimated to reduce the carbon footprint of the energy grid by 10% and save £2bn in electricity grid running costs.

GEE Director, Roderick MacLeod, said: “Scotland is a leader in wind power, but the wind doesn’t always blow when we need the energy most. That’s when pumped storage hydro comes in. It is like a giant water battery, storing excess wind power when it’s plentiful and releasing it when the wind dies down.”

“We deeply care about the Balmacaan Estate and are committed to engaging with the local community, businesses, and government. We’re actively seeking their views on how to maximise the project’s positive impact on the area”.

GEE aims to minimise the impact the project will have on Loch Ness water levels and is seeking views on how the project can be delivered to the benefit of the environment and the community.

A consortium of advisors and experts – including AECOM, Alpiq, Frontier Economics and LCP-Delta – have submitted a scoping request to the Scottish Government’s Energy Consents Unit, to get the project moving.

Pumped hydro projects utilises gravity to generate electricity by pumping water from lower sources to an upper reservoir at time of low demand. During high demand (and therefore high prices) the water is released to supply electricity to the grid.

Long-duration energy storage

Last year, Drax Group secured development consent from the Scottish Government to build a £500m pumped storage hydro facility, which would be the first long-duration storage plant to be constructed in the UK in almost 40 years.

The £500m underground pumped storage hydro plant would be located at Drax’s existing Cruachan facility in Argyll, Scotland. Drax claims the project will support almost 1,000 jobs across the supply chain during construction.

The 600MW hydro plant is part of a £7bn investment plan from Drax to target clean energy solutions up to 2030. It would be constructed adjacent to the existing underground facility, and almost double the site’s capacity to more than 1GW.

To help stimulate the market, the UK Government is set to implement a cap and floor regime to help commercialise long-duration energy storage, which, according to analysts, could reduce running costs for Britain’s power system by up to £24bn.

The Government is aiming to unlock investment in long-duration energy storage (LDES) technologies such as pumped hydro storage. At present, Britain hosts just 2.8GW of active LDES capacity across four pumped hydro plants.

“Globally, pumped storage has relied on government support,” MacLeod added. “The UK government’s proposed income floor is a step in the right direction, which Glen Earrach Energy supports. We believe the government should prioritise projects proven to be the most efficient, cost effective and sustainable, rather than those with planning. That way they should be self-financing and in theory never have to draw on government support.”

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