ScottishPower wants the UK government to get behind its plan to increase the capacity of a pumped storage hydroelectric power plant in the Scottish Highlands.

The £400m proposed project is being earmarked for the Cruachan dam and the utility claims it would serve to provide a stable electricity supply as more renewables are added to the grid.
Cruachan dam
ScottishPower wants to double its capacity at Cruachan, calling it a “fantastic” asset, but said the investment was too risky without Westminster’s support.

“We do need to be able to de-risk the project, and we need government help,” said Hugh Finlay, ScottishPower’s generation director.

The company has dropped two of three pumped storage schemes it had been considering and said in November that “current policy and market signals . . . do not favour investment” in such plants.

The station pulls water from Loch Awe and pumps it into a reservoir that can store 10m cubic metres of water, enough for about 20 hours of continuous generation.

More responsive gas power plants later reduced the importance of Britain’s four pumped storage plants, but their services are now in keen demand from a National Grid strained by demand peaks and troughs and the weather-dependent output of wind and solar generators.

Under ScottishPower’s draft plans, a new cavern would be hollowed out of the mountain for turbines that could increase its current generating capacity from 440MW to up to 1,040MW.