A new pumped storage hydropower project in Snowdonia has been approved by the UK’s business and energy secretary Greg Clark.
The Construction Index revealed that construction on the Glyn Rhonwy project is expected to begin within 12 months, now that it has been given the go ahead. It is the first onshore hydro power scheme in the UK to go through the Planning Act 2008.
Originally, the proposals were for a 49.9MW plant, but due to changes through the energy market reform, the project had to up its output to make it financially viable. The new scheme will generate 99.9MW of power once completed.
It will make use of two disused quarries to act as reservoirs, with water transferred between the two via a tunnel fitted with reversible pump turbines. The power station itself will be located underground.
David Holmes, Quarry Battery managing director, told the news provider that gaining approval is a fantastic step forwards.
“Electricity storage is the natural partner to renewable generation and the missing piece of the UK low carbon strategy,” he stated.
The way pumped storage works is to use electricity to pump water from a lower reservoir to a higher one overnight. During the day, this water is released back to the lower reservoir through a hydro-turbine, generating energy.
The aim is to turn electrical energy into stored (or potential) energy, allowing the plant to generate electricity at times of high demand and store it when there is less need for energy.
Towards the end of last year, Scottish Renewables released a report looking at the future of pumped storage hydro in the UK.
According to the organisation, there are 20 main benefits to the country investing in more technology of this nature. Among them are avoiding the waste of low-carbon electricity at times when demand is lower; and improving the security of the country’s energy supply.
Further investment in the technology could also have benefits in terms of network congestion costs. Storing excess electricity will mean there is less need to spend money on network reinforcement, the report added.
There are also a number of consequences to not investing in pumped storage technology, such as a reduction in the use of variable renewables such as wind and solar power; and growth in the use of flexible gas-fired and diesel generation. Both of these outcomes would result in higher greenhouse gas emissions, something the UK is actively trying to reduce.
Minister for business, innovation and energy Paul Wheelhouse commented: “This tried and tested technology can support peak demand and effectively store greater levels of electricity at times when renewable energy output is high but demand is low.”
He added that the UK government should introduce “a supportive policy and market framework” for the hydropower sector to encourage more developments in this area.
The report recommended that the government should work closely with regulators when making policy decisions, consider introducing a cap and floor style mechanism similar to that used by interconnectors, and to carry out a holistic review to ensure the fairness of network charges.
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