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Scottish government backs pumped storage hydro potential

Iberdrola is to engage in a feasibility study to evaluate the potential for the expansion of a pumped storage hydroelectric power plant in Scotland, a move the current Scottish government hopes will lend more credibility to its claims for energy independence.

Scottish Power, the Iberdrola (BMAD:à‚ IBE)-owned energy group, will us the study to analyse whether it can help to smooth electricity supply amid increasing reliance on highly volatile wind.

Ignacio Galàƒ¡n, chairman and chief executive of Scottish Power parent Iberdrola, said Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond had prompted the utility to consider a possible 600 MW expansion to its 440MW pump storage plant at Cruachan in the Highlands.

“It was a consequence of the last meeting with the first minister ” his request ” but when I asked my engineers … they don’t say to me ‘no’,” Mr Galàƒ¡n said. “If the engineers start making a feasibility study it is because they feel there is some chance. They are not making the hard work for nothing,” he added, reports the FT.

The schemes involve two bodies of water at different heights. During periods of low demand for power, electricity is used to pump water from a lower loch to an upper reservoir. The water is released to create energy when demand is high.

Late last year, the Scottish government also granted consent for plans by utility SSE for a 600 MW pumped storage scheme at Coire Glas in the Highlands that would cost an estimated à‚£800m and identified a potential site for another 600 MW pumped storage plant in the Highlands at Balmacaan.

Britain’s four pumped storage facilities in Scotland and Wales already play a crucial role in meeting sudden demand spikes, such as during breaks in sports events.

High construction costs mean no new plants have been built since the 1980s, but the technology’s role in matching supply and demand across the National Grid will become increasingly important as wind power ” a volatile power source ” takes a growing share of the UK energy mix.

Mr Salmond has constant re-iterated that Scotland’s energy resource will be a vital pillar for independence, which the citizens of the country will decide on in September.

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