Scottish electric utility company SSE has received approval from the government to develop its proposed 600MW Coire Glas pumped storage hydro electric scheme at Loch Lochy in the Great Glen.
To be built with a total investment of around £800m, the project is claimed to be the first new large-scale pumped storage scheme being developed in Great Britain for more than 30 years.
The project calls for the construction of a dam, a new reservoir, an underground cavern power station and underground tunnel system and an outlet area on the shore of Loch Lochy.
The process will involve the transfer of water between the new reservoir and an underground cavern power station through a headrace tunnel, and between the power station and Loch Lochy through a tailrace tunnel.
The project, with an energy storage capacity of up to 30GWh, will extract, store and release energy to and from the electricity transmission system, which will help balance supply and demand for power at a national scale.
The company is yet to make a final investment decision, which is subject to various commercial and regulatory challenges, to move forward with the Coire Glas project, while its construction is estimated to take up to five years, creating more than 400 jobs at its peak.
These challenges, which include changes in the existing transmission charging regime for pumped storage and a satisfactory and supportive long-term public policy and regulatory framework, is likely to delay the company's final investment decision to post-2015.
In February 2012, the company filed an application with the Scottish ministers seeking approval to develop the proposed scheme following consultation with the local community.
The project will provide significant benefits to the GB electricity system in terms of capacity, balancing services and flexibility, specifically during the increase in the variable generation capacity.
SSE Renewables managing director Jim Smith said that pump storage hydro electric schemes, which are one of the feasible means of energy storage, have already been playing a key role in meeting customer's peak demand for electricity in the UK.
Image: SSE to develop Coire Glas pumped storage hydro electric scheme at Loch Lochy in the Great Glen .Photo: courtesy of SSE.