Green light for first UK hydro storage project in 30 years

The first grid-scale electricity storage facility to be built in Britain for more than 30 years has been approved by Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Secretary Greg Clark.

The 99.9MW Glyn Rhonwy pumped-hydro project in North Wales was yesterday (8 March) granted a Development Consent Order (DCO) to turn two abandoned slate quarries into water reservoirs. The facility, developed by Snowdonia Pumped Hydro, will store around 700MWh of electricity – enough energy to supply 200,000 homes with power for seven hours a day.

Surplus electricity at the £160m facility will pump water through an underground tunnel from the lower to the upper reservoir, both to generate electricity when required at peak times and to use electricity to fill the upper reservoir when power demand in low.

Snowdonia Pumped Hydro managing director Dave Holmes said: “We are really pleased that this excellent scheme has been given DCO consent today by the Government. Electricity storage is the natural partner to renewable generation and the missing piece of the UK low-carbon strategy.”

Significant milestone

lobal infrastructure services firm AECOM has supported the project for the past six years, delivering a range of services including the scheme’s engineering feasibility, preliminary engineering designs, technical studies for the grid connection application and highways design.

The firm has also provided environmental technical disciplines to support the scheme’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) including ecology, transport, noise and landscape assessments.

AECOM EIA associate director Catherine Anderson said: “Today’s DCO marks a significant milestone for this important project that will help boost the UK’s ability to respond to changing patterns of electricity generation and demand.

“AECOM has remained committed to the project since its early stages, with our environmental and engineering teams working in collaboration to embed mitigation measures into the design from the outset.” 

Construction is expected to start within the next 12 months once the DCO requirements have been discharged. Glyn Rhonwy is expected to deliver around 32 million MWh of energy over its operational lifetime of 125 years.

‘Leading edge’

It is widely accepted that as the proportion of intermittent renewable generation on Britain’s electricity grid continues to increase, a mix of storage approaches will help to ensure that electricity supply remains secure and affordable.

The UK currently has four pumped hydro storage sites, the youngest of which was built more than 30 years ago. Installation plans for a 300MW pumped-storage hydroelectricity scheme in Scotland were announced in August, heightening the country’s reputation as a “prime candidate” to accelerate the UK integration of energy storage due to its rich heritage in hydropower.

Indeed, Scotland’s hydropower sector has thrived in recent years, with the Scottish Affairs Committee recently revealing that the UK is sourcing 85% of hydro capacity from the country. 

Despite the reported potential for a grid-scale electricity storage system to decarbonise the UK’s electricity by £3.5bn, concerns remain over the UK Government’s lack of clarity over support for valuable ‘smart-grid’ technologies.

Yesterday’s development was supported by Renewable Energy Association (REA) chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska CBE, who called for further growth in the hydro industry. “As we make the historic transition to a low-carbon and flexible energy system the UK is going to need more energy storage,” she said.

“Today’s announcement is an excellent development, and a powerful reminder that from batteries to compressed air and hydro systems, storage will be needed on many scales and in many locations.

“We hope that this is the beginning of many pumped-hydro projects that will be constructed in the coming years, which will improve our energy security, maximise value from already-constructed renewables, and give us a leading edge in what is a growing international market.”

Energy storage at edie Live 2017

Energy storage is among the key themes being covered on the On-site Generation Theatre at edie Live 2017 on 24-25 May. 

In a session titled ‘Energy storage: is it the silver bullet‘, experts from Innovate UK, British Gas and Western Power Distribution will be discussing how innovation in effective energy storage will support wider adoption of renewable generation, ensure security of supply for businesses and facilitate a truly low-carbon energy future.

Find out more about edie Live 2017 and register for your free two-day pass here.

George Ogleby

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