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SSE Renewables receives government consent for Coire Glas pumped storage scheme

SSE Renewables says the Scottish Government has granted consent for its proposed Coire Glas project, the UK’s largest newly planned hydro pumped storage scheme.

SSE Renewables says this decision marks another step toward helping Scotland and the UK deliver their net-zero ambitions. If commercially approved, Coire Glas could double the UK’s pumped storage volume capacity and provide the national grid with the low-carbon balancing flexibility needed to reduce energy costs to consumers while helping decarbonize the power system, according to a press release. The project’s future commercial development is subject to identifying the right market investment framework.

The Coire Glas project, located near Loch Lochy in Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands, would be the UK’s first new pumped storage scheme in over 30 years. Initially approved for a 600-MW scheme in December 2013, revised plans were submitted in April 2018 to the Scottish Government for an up-to-1500-MW scheme. The changes were designed to maximize the potential of the site and help the UK in its transition to a net zero energy system by 2050.

The newly-approved scheme would be capable of producing power for 24 hours non-stop and would have a pumped storage capacity of up to 30 GWh, SSE Renewables said.

One of the most flexible storage technologies, pumped hydro offers a number of benefits and is the most proven large-scale, long-duration storage option available. It can store surplus renewable electricity at times of low demand and provide this power back to the grid over several days. For example, the output from Coire Glas could power around 3 million homes for up to 24 hours. This makes it an important tool to integrate the additional wind and solar power that will be built over the coming decades to help achieve the UK’s net zero targets.

Additionally, pumped storage can help relieve transmission bottlenecks and provide a wide range of grid services to the Electricity System Operator, such as restarting the system in the event of a black out. These “black start” capabilities help provide the flexibility needed to lower the cost of balancing the national grid and thereby lower costs to consumers.

“We’re very pleased with the decision by the Scottish Government to consent the revised Coire Glas project, recognizing the long-established and proven benefits pumped storage can bring to the UK’s energy system on the journey to net zero,” said Paul Cooley, SSE Renewables’ director of capital projects. “There are still commercial hurdles to overcome for new pumped storage as to where it fits within the current market framework, and we are actively exploring potential solutions. In the meantime, Coire Glas remains an important development option for SSE Renewables and receiving consent is a significant step forward for the project.”