Five years after getting planning approval, SSE now seeks to double capacity of un-built Highlands hydro power plant

Computer image of Coire Glas hydro power plant.
Computer image of  location of Coire Glas hydro power plant.

After apparently doing nothing in the five years since it first received planning permission to build what will be the biggest hydro power plant in Britain for more than 40 years, SSE yesterday announced that it is now seeking permission to expand the plan.

Located in the north-west of Loch Lochy, near Spean Bridge in the Great Glen, Pearth-based utility SSE was granted planning approval in 2013 for an £800 million, 600-MW pumped storage scheme at Coire Glas.

However, to ‘maximise the potential’ of this site, SSE has now submitted an application to Scot-Govt for consent to more than double the Coire Glas pumped hydro electric scheme with an increased capacity of up to 1500-MW.

This application comes just 48 hours after SNP MP Drew Hendry told SSE to ‘get a move on’ and develop the Coire Glas hydro scheme.

SNP MP tells SSE to 'get a move on' to develop Coire Glass hydro scheme, Scottish Energy News 16 April 2018
SNP MP tells SSE two days ago to ‘get a move on’ to develop Coire Glass hydro scheme, Scottish Energy News, 16 April 2018

Despite the increase in generating capacity, there is little change to the current external elements of the scheme with the majority of changes being in the underground space required to house the larger turbines.

If ever constructed, Coire Glas would have a storage capacity of up to 30-GWh, more than doubling the existing pumped storage capacity of the UK currently at 24-GWh. Coire Glas would also be the largest capacity hydro project to be built in Scotland the first new pumped storage scheme to be developed in Great Britain since 1974, when work began at the Dinorwig scheme in Wales.

SSE did not reply to inquiries before  the Scottish Energy News office deadline last night about why it did not proceed with the 2013 consent, nor what has changed in the intervening five years prior to yesterday seeking permission for a larger development.

SSE said that Coire Glas is a ‘project of national significance’ that will help meet Britain’s energy needs, and is a natural complement to a low carbon energy system based on renewables.

Pumped storage schemes can be used as a way of delivering electricity storage for the British energy grid. The scheme involves using two bodies of water at different heights. During periods of low demand for power, electricity is used to pump water from the lower loch to the upper reservoir. The water is then released to create energy at a time when demand is high.

The benefits of pumped storage include helping to meet peak demand and extracting, storing and releasing energy to and from the electricity transmission system to balance supply and demand for power at a national scale.

Andy Gregory, SSE Project Manager, said: “Pumped storage can and does play a significant role in making the UK’s electricity system more efficient, reliable and secure for the future. Our Coire Glas project would more than double the total amount of current pumped storage capacity in the UK.”

Meanwhile an England-based developer has completed six new Scottish hydro power projects, thanks to a £43 million debt-finance arrangement with a private Scottish investor.

The six new Scottish hydro-electric schemes developed by Gilkes Energy are:

  • Strathan, Loch an Laoigh, and Uisge Dubh, at Strathcarron, Wester Ross
  • Pattack, just north of Laggan
  • Kendrum Burn, Lochearnhead
  • Ben Glas, on the Glenfalloch Estate, at the north end of Loch Lomond.

19 Apr 2018

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