Drax powers up plans for new Hollow Mountain station

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Plans for a new power station inside another hollowed out cavern at Ben Cruachan have been revealed.

More than one million tonnes of rock would need to be excavated to create the extra space for it – big enough to fit London’s Big Ben on its side.

From today July 1, people can go online to view the plans and have a say.

Cruachan Dam would be large enough to supply two power stations
A diagram of the existing Cruacham Power Station scheme
A diagram of the existing Cruachan Power Station scheme

The public consultation is the first phase of Drax getting consent from Scottish Ministers under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989. The process could take about a year.

If approved the new underground site would eventually double the amount of electricity currently being generated now.

Building work, to the east of Drax’s existing 440MW pumped storage hydro station,  could begin as soon as 2024, creating hundreds of jobs and making enough electricity to power around a million homes by about 2030.

Further consultation events are planned for later in the year and an application is  expected to be submitted to Scottish Ministers in early 2022. Support  from the UK Government will also be needed.

The upper reservoir, which holds 2.4 billion gallons of water, will be large enough to serve both power stations, says Drax who announced the project as the UK gets ready to host the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

As well as supporting almost 900 jobs during the construction it will help Scotland towards reaching its net zero power system by 2045.

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said it is an exciting and important project which underlines Drax’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis.

‘Our plans to expand Cruachan will unlock more renewable electricity to power homes and businesses across the country and support hundreds of new jobs in rural Scotland.

‘Last year, the UK’s lack of energy storage capacity meant wind farms had to be paid to turn off and we lost out on enough renewable power to supply a million homes. We need to stop renewable power from going to waste by storing it, and Drax is ready to move mountains to do just that.’

Hollow Mountain’s local MP Brendan O’Hara and MSP Jenni Minto have welcomed Drax’s decision to pursue planning approval.

Mr O’Hara said: ‘It is great news for this area and for Scotland’ while Ms Minto added: ‘In the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow, it’s more vital than ever that we come up with innovative solutions to the climate emergency and ensure that future generations to reap the rewards of Scotland’s vast renewable potential.’