The 99.9-MW Glyn Rhonwy pumped-storage project has been awarded a development consent order by U.K. Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Minister Greg Clark, opening the doors for Britain’s first new grid-scale power storage facility in more than 30 years.
The project is being developed by Snowdonia Pumped Hydro and has sparked controversy due in large part to its location near Snowdonia National Park.
However, the U.K. has been bullish in its support not only for renewable generating sources, but also energy storage projects, making Glyn Rhonwy an attractive proposition.
“There are signs that the government is taking storage seriously,” SPH managing director Dave Holmes said. “The National Infrastructure Commission last year urged swift action on storage, and a team inside the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is looking urgently at how planning barriers and market disincentives to storage can be addressed.
“We see the grant of permission for our Glyn Rhonwy scheme as highly significant, signaling a real change that will enable the U.K. to meet carbon reduction targets, while keeping electricity secure and prices for consumers under control.”
According to the Welsh developer, Glyn Rhonwy could deliver about 32 million MWh over its expected life of 125 years. Meanwhile, an equivalent 700 MWh lithium-ion plant would deliver 2.1 million MWh before needing its batteries replaced.
“This means electricity delivered by pumped hydro is twenty times cheaper per MWh than lithium-ion batteries over its lifetime, and carries less environmental baggage,” Holmes said.
SPH previously received licenses from Natural Resources Wales to empty water from the disused quarry that will be used for the plant’s upper and lower reservoirs.
The project was originally proposed and approved with a capacity of 49.9 MW, though SPH later decided to install higher output turbines, raising the capacity to 99.9 MW. The developer previously received approval from the UK Planning Inspectorate for the capacity increase, though it is still waiting for approvals from the U.K.’s Secretary of State. Group representatives said the decision should be made by early March.
The Crown Estate agreed to lease 13 hectares of land to Snowdonia Pumped Hydro last April, at which point the project was expected to be operational by 2019.
SPH now says construction of the plant could begin next year, but that it is still seeking private equity funds to build Glyn Rhonwy without public money.