Scottish energy minister visits Drax’s iconic cruachan pumped storage hydro power station

Scotland’s Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse visited Drax’s Cruachan pumped storage hydro power station to see first-hand the essential role it plays in delivering flexible power to support the decarbonisation of the electricity system.


The iconic Cruachan facility in the Western Highlands can generate flexible power within seconds during times of peak demand, helping to keep the lights on for tens of thousands of households. It also provides crucial system support services to the electricity grid, enabling more renewables such as wind and solar to come onto the network.


Mr. Wheelhouse said: “It was fascinating to learn more about how important this unique power station is in supporting the energy system and just how quickly it can respond to changes in demand – delivering the power needed in as little as 30 seconds.


“This kind of flexibility and resilience helps to support the growth of renewables, enabling further decarbonisation of the energy system as we strive for net zero carbon emissions in Scotland by 2045.


“The real value the technology adds every day to our energy system is the reason why we, and industry partners, continue to call on UK Ministers to take action to ensure that they provide the revenue certainty developers need to underpin further proposed investments in pumped storage hydro capacity in Scotland.”


Andy Koss, Drax’s CEO Generation, said: “Cruachan has been providing stability to the power network since 1965 when the turbines were first installed inside the hollowed-out mountain. As we move to a system with more renewables, the services that Cruachan provides are becoming more essential.


“I’m incredibly proud of the work done by the team and the role they play in driving decarbonisation and economic growth as we continue to deliver the power relied on by thousands of homes and businesses.”


Cruachan is one of four pumped hydro storage stations in the UK and has a capacity of 440 MW – enough to power more than 90,000 homes during peak demand.


Built on the shores of Loch Awe in Argyll and Bute, it was the first reversible pumped storage hydro system on this scale to be built in the world.

The turbine hall is located 1 km within the hollowed-out mountain of Ben Cruachan and houses four generators, supplying a range of vital balancing and ancillary services to the grid, such as frequency control, spinning and operating reserves, helping to maintain secure power supplies.

Drax acquired Cruachan along with hydro facilities in Galloway and Lanark and a biomass-from-waste plant at Daldowie, near Glasgow, at the end of last year.


Scotland is targeting net zero carbon emissions by 2045 – five years ahead of the rest of the UK.