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Two new Scottish hydropower projects under consideration

10 June 2014

Scottish Power has said it will look into doubling the capacity of its Cruachan hydro power station near Oban in Argyll. The company is to carry out a two-year feasibility study before deciding whether to go ahead with the project, probably in early 2016. The 440MW station is one of only four pumped storage hydro plants in the UK and plays a key role in balancing the country's electricity system. 

The Cruachan reservoir dam
The Cruachan reservoir dam

When there is a surplus of electricity, water is pumped from Loch Awe to a reservoir 360m higher up on the mountainside. It is then released when demand is high, generating electricity by driving turbines in the power station below.

If the scheme is given the go-ahead, capacity would be increased to  1,040MW.

Another of the UK Big Six utilities is also planning a new pumped storage project. SSE’s Coire Glas scheme in Lochaber would be the first new large-scale pumped storage scheme to be developed in UK for over 30 years. Consent for the Coire Glas scheme was granted in December 2013 and SSE expects to make a final investment decision in 2015.

This £800m project would have 600MW capacity with a 500m height difference between the upper and lower reservoir sites

Matching electricity generation with consumer demand is expected to become more challenging due to the increased reliance on intermittent sources of renewable energy such as wind farms.

Scottish Power chief corporate officer Keith Anderson said: "Pump storage is still the most efficient and effective way of storing energy, and then using it at times of high demand.”

The company’s Spanish parent company, Iberdrola, recently completed a seven-year project to double the capacity of the Cortes La Muela pumped storage hydro plant near Valencia to 1,500MW.

The Scottish government has said the country could be "on the verge of a new generation of hydro power".

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