Sunday, 19 February 2012

Loch a' choire ghlais: Pumped storage proposal

Cut & pasted from the BBC News website:

“Scottish and Southern Energy Renewables has applied to build Scotland's biggest ever hydro electric scheme at the west end of the Great Glen. SSE plans a 600MW pumped storage scheme, which extracts, stores and releases electricity, near Loch Lochy.

The scheme, which would cost about £800m, could create 150 jobs. It would be the first pumped storage scheme since work began on a similar development in Wales almost 40 years ago. It would also be one of the largest construction projects in Scotland and require one of the largest dams ever built in the UK.

The dam would be constructed more than 90m above ground level, as well as having an underground power house, tunnels, two reservoirs and a jetty on the shores of Loch Lochy.

Hydro electric schemes, which use impounded water to generate electricity, are an excellent means of energy storage. Consequently, they naturally complement the variable output from the growing number of wind farms and play an important part in meeting peak demand”.

So: What would this look like in practice? Let’s look at a Scottish pumped storage scheme that is already built: Cruachan Power Station: On the map, it looks like this: NOTE: All the maps & pictures that follow can be viewed at a larger size by clicking on them.

Ben Cruachan Hydro Plan View


An aerial view of it looks like this:

Cruachan 3D View

From this link you can see that Cruachan provides peak generation of 440MW of electrical power over a maximum time frame of 20 hours. This gives the total power capacity at about 8.8GWh (arrived at by multiplying 20 hours by 0.44GW)

Now let’s look at what SSE are proposing for the Loch a' choire ghlais scheme: From the BBC blurb above we can see that it has a maximum output of 600MW; that’s about half as big again as Cruachan.

This is the plan, lifted from SSE’s website:

Scheme Layout

The non technical summary can be found HERE. It’s written in simple English and isn’t too long. Worth five minutes to canter through it.

From Item 1.1.5 from the document they say that the total power capacity will be 30GWh. This means that they will be able to run the turbines continuously at 600MW for 50 hours. Comparing that to Cruachan’ 440MW for 20 hours,  you can see that this is a pretty hefty power station.

Again, from SSE’s site, this is what the dam will look like in it’s setting:

SSE's Visualisation

SSE's Dam Visualisation from Ben Tee

Other points to note from their own summary:

It’s a five year construction period, so there will be pretty major disruption to the local area during this time. There will be 450,000 cubic metres of rock to dispose of. At a density of about 2.7 tons per cubic metre, that means about 1.22 million tons of rock. Let’s say an average truck takes away about 30 tons a load, that makes over 40,000 lorry journeys to dispose of the rock, so about 80,000 trips in all. Over the 36 month period envisaged that’s about 75 trips a day on average.

One of the huge drawbacks (there are oh, so many!) of wind energy is the dreadful intermittency. This project should at least go a small way to reducing that particular problem.

It is interesting to note from their summary that “A further potential pumped storage site was also identified on Balmacaan Estate, to the north of Invermoriston. SSE Renewables are also progressing this development, known as Balmacaan Pumped Storage scheme.”

I shall have to do some digging to see what they are proposing.

So! Having read all this and the supporting documentation, what do you think about it? I have my own thoughts on it but I would be interested to hear from everyone.



Highland Council has now given its approval to the scheme.

The decision will now be referred to Scottish government ministers. The council’s south planning applications committee said it had no objection to the proposals "subject to conditions being attached to any approval by Scottish ministers".

More information can be found by clicking HERE



The project has now been given the green light by the Scottish Government. That didn’t take long.

From The Scotsman’s website:

Picture lifted from The Scotsman

AN £800 MILLION hydro-electric scheme – set to be the biggest ever in Scotland – has been given the green light by the Scottish Government.

Scottish & Southern Energy plans to construct the 600MW project at Coire Glas, near Spean Bridge, in Lochaber, with up to 150 jobs being created. The controversial project had been opposed by numerous conservation bodies including campaigners claiming it could damage tourism to the Highland beauty spot.

Energy minister Fergus Ewing yesterday granted planning consent for the hydro-electric pumped storage generating station, which will consist of a dam and reservoir at Loch a’ Choire Ghlais, an underground cavern power station and tunnel system and an outlet area on the shore of Loch Lochy.

It is designed to “soak up” excess power generated by wind and wave farms, using it to pump water up to a reservoir. That is then released through tunnels to generate electric power at times when consumers need it. Supporters describe such schemes as “green batteries”, but opponents argue they use more energy than they produce.

While generating, it will have the potential to provide up to 10 per cent of Scotland’s estimated peak electricity demand, powering up to 600,000 homes. The building programme is expected to last five to six years, creating 150 jobs during that time, Mr Ewing said.

“Energy storage has a key role to play as part of a balanced electricity mix in supporting security of supply requirements. Pumped storage stations can provide a valuable responsive supply to maintain the stability of the grid and help integrate renewable generating technologies,” he said.

“It is unique in the UK in comparison to other existing pumped storage schemes in its ability to release energy to the electricity grid for extended periods, offering an estimated 50 hours of continuous operation.”

However, Scottish Natural Heritage believes it would have a major negative impact on the local landscape and views would be significantly affected.


Expect to see a rash of approvals for more wind farms surrounding Loch Ness, as this project gives the developers a justification for their construction. The wind at night can be utilized to pump the water back up to the top reservoir.


  1. Pumped storage is needed for intermittent energy sources or ones that can't be switched off such as nuclear. We may see even more of these!

    1. That's what I believe too, Andy. The more wind and Nuclear we have, the more storage mechanisms we are going to need to keep National Grid stable to prevent power black-outs.

  2. Its my view that we need to ignore the impact of the construction phase because so long as it is carried out as described the effect will only be temporary in most, if not all respects.
    I would be interested to find out who carried out the various surveys re ecology/biodiversity.

    The longer term effects are what i am interested in. The wildlife and ecosystem probably would not be adversely affected above the water but underwater the natural life would certainly be affected permanently.

    The views would change permanently as would the 'feel' of the land. There is no doubt in my mind about that.

    The question is, is it worth it?

    The scheme would generate a significant and predictable amount of power and this would be a complete contrast to solar or wind power plants.

    I really don't know which side of the fence i stand. It is certainly the lesser of two evils but i just dont like to see the countryside exploited for the benefit of us humans

    I think we should all consider the amount of power we use and try, where possible to keep it to a minimum, maybe even generating our own energy?

    If i was pushed to choose between this, and a windfarm in the same area, i would not favour the wind turbine option. That is as far as i think i would be prepared to go i think.

    1. Seeing that we have got windfarms all over the shop we do need a form of rechargeable 'battery' to soak up the sudden drops in wind. Pumped storage could do this, for very little land footprint.
      However, the construction period must be managed properly. The last Hydro Power scheme in the Great Glen was managed badly in terms of access (The A' Craidhleagh dam scheme)

  3. I think I said "I think" a lot there. Don't you think?

  4. My thoughts chime with what Carl has written. Although I must say I'm not overly familiar with the area, there's only some much a couple of artists impressions can convey.

    1. I walked between Ben Tee and Meall a Choire Ghlais on my through route on the TGO Challenge a couple of years ago. The corrie *does* feel wild and the walk down to Loch Lochy and the pub at Laggan locks is a fine airy stroll.
      There *will* be loss of the wild, but far far less than a windfarm.

      A windfarm of a size to generate the same consistent power would require about 700 x 3MW Turbines (2100MW capacity @ 28% typical efficiency)

  5. The whole Hydro story stems back from the fifties when the Labour MP Tom Johnstone was appointed by Winston Churchill as Secretary of State for Scotland, basically to keep him out of everyone’s hair. It is of note that Johnstone had previously blocked a privately funded Hydro Scheme for the Beauly Area. Hmm!! Hydro faltered and died , not because of the dearth of sites to transform, but due to the lobbying of Gerald Nabaro, MP and the National Coal Board, who saw the expansion as a threat to their industry. At the same time the land owners lost their enthusiasm for new technology as they saw the effect wrought on their lands.
    As to this new tranche of Hydro Schemes, we must consider them well. We already have Glendoe, closed for the last year plus after a tunnel collapse. We have Balmaacan under consideration and the massive Glenmorie Scheme. We now have this one a t Loch Lochy. How practical one may ask? Pumped hydro produces large amounts of power over short periods. If this is to balance the intermittency of wind, we must suggest that the 600mw will do little to balance the massive number of turbines planned for the area. If Stronelaig and Balmacaan come on line you are talking of 834mw needed for those alone. As a resident of the area I am well aware that winter high pressure areas can last up to two weeks or more at a time. Fifty hours does not seem much based against those considerations. Also pumped storage relies on cheap coal or nuclear night time electricity to recycle. Expensive wind, off-shore or on-shore, wave or tidal would simply not be an economical option. Although the dam may provide fifty hours of capacity, this assumes two things. One: Mother Nature in her bounty has provided enough water in the hills and two: you have the time to pump it uphill before you need it next. The energy and time to refill a pumped hydro scheme is days if not weeks. These systems are fine for short bursts of power to cover high peaks of usage, like the end of football matches when everyone puts the kettle on. It is dubious whether they are practical to provide cover from wind.
    This area is a Mecca for Tourism and yet the picture you paint of the disruption we may expect would do irreparable damage to this business’s that rely on tourism in those areas. Looking to the past, at the turn of the Century I have a poster for a daily trip from Inverness in a coach and four to visit Kilmorack Falls at the princely sum of 6/s (7/6d inside). Nowadays we do not get any visitors to come and view the concrete edifices of either the Kilmorack or Aigas Dams and even the Fish Pass is now permanently closed. Anyone familiar with the Mullardoch and Glascarnoch Dam would remark at their foreboding appearance and the damage wreaked on the shorelines. Read Iain Thomson’s book Isolation Shepherd and you will realise what we lost in the pursuit of energy. When Hydro came to the Highland’s one coal fired power station would have provided the same output. It was a massive job creation scheme. Now we look at Glendoe which was built with mostly East European labour and equipped with German Turbines. When Kilmorack and Aigas were re-engineered about ten years ago it was German turbines and German engineers. I remember as a boy seeing the great lorries going down the MI from GEC at Whetstone loaded with turbines and electrical gear for every country in the world, packing crates stencilled with the names of far off places: Durban, Dubai, Delhi and so many more. Now we even have to import the cables for the new Hunterston to Wirral undersea line. So, as in the years of the original Hydro, do we really have to sacrifice our lands when one nuclear power station would probably do the lot and 24/7/365.

    1. John: Than you for that comprehensive comment. The required capacity of these pumped storage schemes is tiny compared to the problems with rapidly falling wind output. And, as you rightly day, with huge new windfarms in planning at the moment and even more being scoped, this particular scheme will not add much to the mix. We will STILL be reliant on gas turbines and coal stations to provide the bilk of the balancing power.

    2. My alternative vision for a hydro dam scheme at Coire Glas offers about 20 times more energy stored than the SSE plan. Yup, that's around about 600 GigaWatt-hours.

      Then again, my dam is a lot bigger (and more expensive to build)!

      See my plan published on my blog or forum.

      Peter Dow's Blog: My vision for a LARGER hydro dam at Coire Glas, Scotland than SSE's

      For Freedom Forums, Scottish Economy Topic, My vision for a LARGER hydro dam at Coire Glas, Scotland than SSE's

    3. Hello Peter

      That's certainly an interesting idea. Have you worked out how much and where all the rock you envisage excavating from the upper reservoir site will go? The size of the dam you propose is absolutely huge - are you sure this is technically possible and at what cost can it be achieved? The capital cost of building your scheme may well prove to make the scheme uneconomic.

      I am sure SSE will want to be able to sell as much power as possible from each of their pumped storage schemes, and so I am pretty certain that they will have done cost benefit analyses on any number of iterations of dam size and will have arrived at this scheme as the most economically viable.

      I have taken a look at your "Scottish Economy" site and whilst we don't share the same views I wish you well.

  6. Hi Allan,

    On last years Challenge I had heard of this sceme from one of the Great Glen Way rangers. We had a lenghty discussion on the probability of Fedden on the other side of the bealach being involved. She did not know. It seems at least that this historic and wild place is not involved. The impact of the sceme as presented seems to be quite localised to Loch a'Choire Ghlais and its new dam. As I understand the plans the dam will only be visable from the top of the Munro's and from the hills on the other side of the Great Glen. If this is completely true remains to be seen, but for the moment I tend to agree with McOfS.

    Which seems to differ from the [url=]Ramblers and the JMT[/url] it seems.


    1. Ralph: Whatever your views on renewables, to quote that blog is interesting, as it is the most Pro-Renewables blog in Britain.

      It's basically a mouthpiece for the colossal Renewables industry. It surely comes as no surprise then that it rails against Dave Morris's views?

      My standpoint is along similar lines to the MCofS as well.

  7. I think I'm broadly in agreement with Carl - it is, just, the lesser of two evils.

    Admittedly, there will be tremendous disruption and a certain amount of desecration of the landscape, but, at the end of the process, there will be something that delivers the type of energy supply we need in a form that is a workable supplement to the National Grid.

    There are lots of examples of hydro schemes and reservoirs that have, over time, mellowed into the landscape and become a haven for wildlife, albeit a changed one.

    And, in terms of output and efficiency, such schemes seem to affect far smaller tracts of land to achieve the same sort of output compared to windfarms - so, overall, a smaller area spoiled (although I know, in the case of affected residents, that point is moot!).

    So, on balance, and accepting we need to produce sufficient energy to keep us going as a Nation, I think this is far preferable to having every hilltop in Christendom covered in useless bloody windmills!

    1. We should bear in mind that all pumped storage schemes actually use more energy than they provide: More energy is used in pumping water back up to the top reservoir than is gained from it's release.

      As electricity is cheaper at night - because supplies exceed demand - this still works out to our advantage. We call on the Hydro energy when demand is either very peaky (the turbines can reach full power output between 30 seconds and two minutes from start-up, depending upon whether or not they are being spun) or suddenly other supplies drop out (wind turbines stop spinning)

      There is of course a trickle of power constantly available from the inflow of rainfall into the top reservoir, but this is very small, as the catchments are typically tiny compared to normal storage reservoirs in the hills.

      So these schemes don't provide new electricity; they provide the electricity already generated, but when we need it most.

  8. Personally I don't have a problem with this particular scheme - it's not as though there'll be wholesale flooding of communities. I also note that one option for rock-removal would be to incorpoirate some of the material into the dam per se.

    Back in 1968 a 292MW pumped-storage scheme was constructed near the top of the Wicklow Gap in Ireland. I know this site well. At the time considerable care was given to landscaping the site, running power lines underground and minimising impact. The site is all but invisible. For myself I would rather see a body of water than a wind-factory.

    You can read about the Turlough Hill site here

    1. I agree totally, Humph. As far as I can see, the loss will be an ugly draw-down scar at the site of the upper reservoir in the corrie and the dam itself. There will of course be the access tracks as well, but this is small potatoes compared to the equivalent scenic damage a windfarm of the same power output would cause.

      Thanks for the link to Turlough Hill. I remember well the fuss when the explosives went missing...

  9. The nearest pumped storage system is Foyers which tends to sell it's power at peak rates in short 20min bursts. That is precisely what pumped storage is good for. Immediately available, well as alan says 30sec lead time, and for limited periods. Then uses off peak surplus and cheap electricity to recycle. This would be alot bigger than foyers.Don't get this confused with normal hydro which does provide a sustainable and available source of electricity. This is not a critism, just a comment

  10. It's unlikely a dam of any kind is going to be an enhancement, aesthetically speaking. On the other hand it should be possible for the end product not to be a total eyesore.

    I'd hope we could avoid ending up with anything like that one restraining Loch an Daimh...

    1. While I do not have any real objections I do have some short term reservations.
      Access to the two Munros should be maintained by using the proposed diversion to the Great Glen Way

      However, access down the forestry roads from the west running through to Mandally could be compromised by the upgraded track just off the A87

      At Glen Doe, the construction companies appear to ban everyone and their dog from anywhere near their site including the access tracks.

      I accept that hard lorries and soft bodies do not mix well, “elf and safety” and all that but no access for five years is a possibility in my opinion.
      If some way could be devised to ensure pedestrian and bike access then my concerns would be resolved.

      One advantage that this scheme will address would be to answer one of the main problems of tidal generated power, i.e. no output at high or low tide.
      This may reduce the proliferation of even more windfarms.

      I have done the visitors tour at Cruachan and was quite impressed with how it answered the smaller problem of all the kettles going on at once after Coronation street.

      Some local employment will be gained, initially many, fewer long term, but any job is a job.

      We can’t object to all progress and this development may not be of concern in the greater scheme of things.

    2. There is something magnificently Stalinist about the Loch an Daimh dam! Another five year plan, Comrade!

    3. Sandy: I agree. The access to the A' Craidhleagh via Glen Doe was (and still is) woeful. The sad thing about that scheme is that wind farm developers are now saying that as the landscape there is totally ruined, a huge new windfarm won't hurt any more.

      Soulless bastards.

  11. Dinorwig and Ffestiniog were at least built on sites already scarred by mine workings (I think), so the environmental impact long term is probably beneficial (and of course Dinorwig is built inside a mountain anyway).

    However it is probably worth noting that both are predominately used (again I think) for covering voltage surges / drops and are rarely used for general power production, and certainly not at capacity.

    Interestingly Dinorwig (with all turbines running in reverse spin) can produce the energy needed by Birmingham within 30 seconds.

    1. Aye DG: Birmingham for seven hours.

      Looking at Dinorwig's figures, it produces about 1.8GW of electricity at full-tilt for a maximum period of just seven hours. That's just 12.6GWh capacity compared to 30GWh for the Loch a' choire ghlais project.

      This new power station really is a whopper.

  12. This is shaping up to being a very interesting discussion - free from emotive stand-points and focused on practicality.

    I recognise that there will be short-term access issues, but would point out that this specific area is not a honey-pot. Those of us who have trudged west of the corrie might indeed delight in gaining the crest and seeing a water-feature. And this is my real point. The outcome of this project will not be a wholesale desecration - pace the Monadliath wind-factory projects - but rather a solution to power-demand spikes that has a minimal landscape impact.

    I should at this point nail my colours to the mast and say that my personal opinion is that current-generation nuclear power, combined with future wave technology, would be my preferred option for Britain.

    I am opposed to large-scale wind-factories - but I recognise the benefits to individual farms and estates for localised turbines. Here in the Scottish Borders we have a mix of the two - a wholesale degradation of the Lammamuirs and the area of the Southern Uplands on the Peebles > Selkirk axis, but also a number of small-scale individual farm turbines with a height below 45m which are commendable and are predicated on power supply to an individual holding.

    Let the debate continue!

    1. I agree 100% with that, Humph. Wind can offer isolated communities a lifeline of power denied to them by the Grid.

      However, huge wind power stations that export power hundreds of miles vis colossal pylons, destabilising the Grid and producing hugely expensive electricity with *no* reduction in CO2 emissions, totally wrecking the wild land, just infuriates!

  13. I'd rather have this than turbines any day and am pretty well with the MCofS and Humphry. That said, I support nuclear unpopular/unfashionable though that may be. If the Scottish government is to be believed, John Graham and I are the only two people in Scotland that do!

    1. Hi Gibson
      Politicians and the Greens (I don't count Greens as serious politicians) have effectively stifled support of nuclear generation for thirty years. The present government has finally gripped the nettle and is building ten shiny new nuclear power stations.

      I totally support modern nuclear power generation in Britain. Eventually even Salmond will come round to it when his industrial base has been decimated by expensive wind generated power.

    2. Hello Alan

      Absolutely right. Unfortunately Salmond doesn't even see the nettle.

    3. I also am in favour of nuclear power.

      The frogs have successfully been using this for years.

      The odd hiccup like tsunamis should not consign useful technology to history.

      Radioactive waste can be managed until decontamination methods are improved.

      Science and engineers, given the chance can solve most problems.

      I am also in favour of other cost effective renewable technology, wind farms not being one of them.

    4. It's a shame the politicians don't read up on power generation. They make their decisions based on political considerations rather than engineering facts.

      That's not to mention the sheer beauty of the places they destroy by doing so.

  14. Just a couple of little asides:

    On the subject of peak demand when everyone turns their kettle on after football matches etc. How many people are still wasting electricity by over-filling their kettles? My bet is that its a hell of a lot. Much more needs to be done to stop people wasting electricity. After all, it would save us having to build power stations and windfarms.

    On the subject of micro-generation, this article from the BBC is probably of interest to other readers. It describes a very small hydro-electric turbine project. Sited in a stream it is capable of constantly producing enough electricity for about 20 houses:
    Perhaps many micro schemes like this could provide part of the answer?

    1. Hi Bernie
      Please excuse my dreadfully late approval of your comment - It's my email host - Google - who believed your email was spam for whatever reason! This has happened occasionally in the past, with ghastly consequences, and I have no idea how to sort it out. However!...
      Thanks for commenting. I think that's great little scheme you have pointed to. Every little bit helps and it gives the "hard-pressed" sheep farmer a bit of help too.

  15. Although not related to Scotland the following seen today about a proposal for Shropshire area

  16. Interesting comments about the Turlough Hill pumped hydro. I see Bord Failte, the Irish Tourist Board, objected to the pylons and managed to get them undergrounded at the cost of £600,000. How very different from Visit Scotland that has never objected to any wind farms or wirescape and even brushes them out of the tourist photos. The Chairman of Ramblers of Scotland told me that he asked Visit Scotland if they had any photos with WTs in and they admitted that they had not. Search wind farms on the Visit Scotland site and you get one very brief reference to Whitelees Visitor Centre

    1. Visit Scotland's controlling minister is John Swinney - the minister for Energy. Quelle Surprise, then!

  17. I agree with the general opinion in the comments. I would prefer this to a wind farm. On Saturday I was on a bus to Taynuilt and I could instantly tell which was Cruchan because of the dam, as the bus turned slightly my eyes were diverted to a wind farm and a head shake and muttering under my breath continued for a while at its sight.

    I'm not sure which the wind farm was, but I could still see it as I headed out of Taynuilt towards Glen Etive, positioned on top of a hill (small one in this case) it stood out from miles around, unlike the proposed hydro scheme (I believe).

    Interestingly the day before I had been involved in a long interesting discussion on hydro schemes with three other outdoors people in Tiso at Glasgow. This scheme and several others were mentioned and the general consensus was they would prefer these to wind farms. Small turbines in existing pipes was something else discussed.

    I'm with nuclear too.

    1. Hi Steve
      You were looking at Beinn Ghlas windfarm. This is a real tiddler compared to what they are building these days. It was completed in 1999 and the guest of honour who opened the scheme was none other than Kevin Dunion, Director of Friends of the Earth, Scotland.

      The average turbine generates 0.6MW. Modern turbines are huge in comparison, generating between 2.5 & 3.0GW in Scotland (onshore).

      You can read more about it HERE

  18. Response to Scottish renewables attack on the Ramblers and JMT
    You talk as though the only alternatives are wind and pumped storage. I don't remember anything from JMT or Ramblers against tidal and wave, although I think we need to understand what we are doing. The fishing grounds in Kent have turned to a desert and jobs are on the line. Have the marine biologists got their facts right or have they sold thir souls to the Green Giant? There are alternatives including Clean Coal. Have a look at this video from Craig, Colorado: There is still 500 yrs of coal beneath out feet. There is nuclear which has moved on a long way since Chernobyl or Fukushima were built. See the new CANDU reactor built in China that can run on Thorium. and there is gas frakking which even the geological research people seem fairly comfortable about. On top of that there are new technolgies such as Osmotic Generation which is forecast to generate 1600-1700TWhr of electrical production and is already operating in Toffe, Nr. Oslo, Norway. There is also Plasma Waste which has the potential to "mine" all our land fill sites, produces no CO2 and has a waste prodect similar to inert glass whic can be used in the building industry. All these technologies have very small footprints and can be built close to use obviating the billion of pounds predicted to be necessary to connect the new "renewable" supplies to the user base. On that basis what we want is some grown up thinking. I have spoken to various people that worked for such as Scottish Power and the National Grid at the highest levels and they hang their heads in horror at this Race for Wind driven by artificial political deadlines. My final point is the gratuitous use of the term Nimby. Edmund Burke made a comment that is very apt. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” When we sensibly address our need for a sustainable energy policy; note I do not use the word renewable; it may very well be that pumped storage has a greater place in the portfolio than it currently does but the caveat is that pumped storage needs cheap off-peak electricty to re-cycle the system. Subsidised wind, off-shore or on-shore will never provide that. We are sleep walking into the most expensive electricity supply situation that it is possible to envisage and that will have a disastrous effect on UK industry and commerce. The CO2 that the UK may be able to save in the short term is an irrelevance of the magnitude of an ant on an elephants back in comparsion to the output of the new tiger economies of the east. Common sense, the most un-common sense it would seem in the corridors of power, could direct us to an economical mixed energy mix that could make us leaders in the world. It is of no coincidence that most high tech solutions to wind and water rely not on UK manufacture, as it did in the 50 and 60's when Hydro first made it's mark but on predominately German turbines, generators and switch gear. Wind Turbines come from an established manufacturing base in Europe. Little benefit is accrued to UK industry. A few crumbs only to the muck movers and steel bashers for construction of bases both on-shore and off. It is of interest that Dinorwig, the largest UK pumped storage system in terms of capacity relies on six UK made GEC turbines.

  19. Absolutely John.
    Top marks!

    If we saw our politicians as they really look, would they resemble Ostriches?
    They certainly seem quite oblivious to reality and are running a blinkered course to meet deadlines set by Europe.

    Personnaly, I have no real problem with the above as long as they do it efficiently.
    Sadly, theirin lies the fundamental problem.
    As a nation we have an extraordinary ability to overrun, overspend and underplan.

  20. Well done Alan and thank you.

    I've really been inspired by the SSE proposal for a pumped-storage scheme for Coire Glas to conceive and to publish a plan for bigger and better hydro dam scheme at Choir Glas.

    See my vision on my blog or my forum.

    Peter Dow's Blog: My vision for a LARGER hydro dam at Coire Glas, Scotland than SSE's.

    This can also be read in the "Scottish Economy" topic of the For Freedom Forums.

    1. Hello Peter

      That's certainly an interesting idea. Have you worked out how much and where all the rock you envisage excavating from the upper reservoir site will go? The size of the dam you propose is absolutely huge - are you sure this is technically possible and at what cost can it be achieved? The capital cost of building your scheme may well prove to make the scheme uneconomic.

      I am sure SSE will want to be able to sell as much power as possible from each of their pumped storage schemes, and so I am pretty certain that they will have done cost benefit analyses on any number of iterations of dam size and will have arrived at this scheme as the most economically viable.

      I have taken a look at your "Scottish Economy" site and whilst we don't share the same views I wish you well.

    2. Thank you for your interest in my much bigger hydro dam scheme for Coire Glas Alan.

      I hadn't worked this out but since you asked, I have just now estimated how much rock will need excavating from the upper reservoir bed - 138 million cubic metres to leave the elliptical bed with vertical walls.

      The underground works excavates rock as well and that too will be more for my bigger scheme. After all, with 20 times more stored energy it makes sense to install more generators which will need more excavating underground.

      The SSE say for their scheme

      "Coire Glas Pumped Storage Scheme
      Non-Technical Summary. 3.1.4

      Rock Disposal - Excavated rock from the underground works would be reused in the
      localised area of construction works wherever feasible. However, it is estimated that
      there would be a surplus of approximately 450,000 cubic metres of excavated rock
      which would require disposal. The majority of rock from the excavated tunnels and
      cavern chamber would be removed via the tunnel portals near the shore at Loch

      So say 20 times more for my scheme's underground works makes 9 million cubic metres.

      So that's 138 + 9 = 147 million cubic metres total of excavated rock.

      Now my bigger dam may have a volume of around 72 million cubic metres which will need about 50 million cubic metres of aggregate to make the concrete for it.

      The needed aggregate could be produced by crushing some of the excavated rock, which would still leave 147 - 50 = 97 million cubic metres of loose rock left over after construction of the dam.

      Well I suppose there is a market for loose rock to make aggregate or for other construction purposes in which case it'll go wherever and whenever it is needed?

      If it turns out that there's no market for so much loose rock, I presume it could be landscaped in somewhere in the vicinity and left looking nice I trust.

      As for such a huge dam being technically feasible?

      Oh aye nae bother Alan. There look to be 6 dams of greater volume than my 72 million cubic metres already in the world.

      Whilst my dam might now look like it might be ever so slightly the tallest man-made dam in the world - ever so slightly the tallest in the world (unless someone else builds bigger first), actually making a large simple dam is not too difficult technically speaking.

      Nature makes and breaks natural dams and in fact the tallest dam in the world at 567m is a natural dam.

      The cost for the smaller SSE scheme in total they estimate at £800 million and since my dam will be 27 times more massive than SSE's and the energy capacity is 20 times more than SSE's I would say the cost of mine will be around about £20 billion or so.

      I am sure that the SSE don't think my bigger scheme would be economic for them right now.

      But that's OK because I don't propose that the SSE fund my bigger hydro dam scheme out of their own funds.

      Instead, I propose that my bigger scheme be funded out of government funds as a major infrastructure project, like a bridge or motorway is funded, even like the Concorde project was funded!

      The Bank of England has been giving out more than £300 billion recently in so called "quantitative easing" cash to the banks so I suggest that some of that government money gets invested in something worthwhile like my hydro dam project rather than keeping the bankers well lubricated with cash.

      So yes it will be a good sound economic investment for the country, electricity suppliers and customers as well for the longer term.

    3. Peter. That did make me giggle! I don't think there are enough trucks in the world to shift all that rock! That's 13.5 million truck loads @ 30 tons per truck... = 27 million truck journeys...

      I'd concentrate on liberating Scotland, if I were you!

    4. Thanks for your critical eye Alan. I need someone like you to keep me sharp.

      A 400 million tonne rock-moving job would need to use some of biggest trucks in the world I think.

      The World's Biggest Truck

      One of the world's biggest trucks can be found in the huge coal mines in Wyoming and Australia, copper mines in Chile, in iron extraction in South Africa and in gold mines in Nevada.

      So how big is big?

      This monster mining truck weighs in at 203 tonnes (when empty), and measures 24 foot 3 inches (7.4 metres) tall over the canopy, 47 feet 6 inches (14.5 metres) long with a wheelbase of 21 foot 6 inches (6.6 metres).

      It can carry loads of 365 tonnes, so when loaded that's an overall weight of 568 tonnes!

      AC power!

      This is also no ordinary truck. Instead of one huge engine powering the wheels, there is a 3650-horsepower (2723-kilowatt) diesel engine generating power for two electric motors in the rear axles, making this the biggest AC drive truck in the world!"

      That's got the job down to 1.1 million loads at 365 tonnes a load.

      Now if it's only a few miles to the dump that means a lorry might be able to do as many as 100 round trips a day, assuming 24-hour-7-days-a-week operation, which is 100 loads at 365 tonnes per load or 36,500 tonnes a day.

      In 100 days, one lorry could have shifted 10,000 loads or 3,650,000 tonnes.

      In 100 days, 10 lorries could have shifted 100,000 loads or 36,500,000 tonnes.

      In 100 days, 100 lorries could have shifted 1,000,000 loads or 365,000,000 tonnes

      So one could either move the 400 million tonnes of excavated rock with 100 lorries in 110 days. Or hire 110 lorries and do it in 100 days.

      Or if that is too optimistic and it takes 2 or 3 times as many lorries or 2 or 3 times as long, that's OK Alan.

    5. "...if it's only a few miles to the dump..." So - you want to dump this rock spoil on the hillside? I don't think so!

      Also: Think how you would get these huge lorries to the site. By road? Not really practical. The rock from your massively enlarged generator cavern; how would you dispose of that?

      I would let SSE's engineers work out their own scheme Peter!

    6. Well hopefully you won't think so, Alan, after the job is done and any remaining unused rock has been landscaped over.

      Hopefully, you'll think, "this is beautiful, so natural looking, even Peter's 317 metre high dam"!

      The big trucks are a bit less than 10 metres wide but I would imagine they'd get as far as Fort William by sea.

      New roads around the construction site will have to be made anyway, so they'd be designed to be wide enough.

      Whether those big lorries would need new roads or roads widened, or alternative routes such as across fields, all the way from Fort William to Coire Glas I don't know. How hard can it be?

      The big truck company, Liebherr, must deal with that issue every day. They'll know how to get their big trucks delivered to sites.

      Oh I already accounted for the generator caverns excavated rock.

      Separate caverns for each generator, I think. Many smaller caverns are easier to shore up against the risk of cave-ins than one huge cavern.

      My cavern space was accounted for when I wrote "So say 20 times more for my scheme's underground works makes 9 million cubic metres."

      The SSE say "a surplus of approximately 450,000 cubic metres of excavated rock" for their underground works which is 0.45 million cubic metres.

      I've estimated that my underground works, caverns, tunnels etc. would be 20 times that or 20 x 0.45 = 9 million cubic metres.

      So that 9 is part of the 138 + 9 = 147 million cubic metres in total.

      Well Alan. the SSE scheme is very good but I do feel it will be a missed great opportunity to maximise the potential of the Coire Glas site.

      The SSE's 30 GigaWatt-hours of energy stored won't be enough as we approach 100% of all our electricity generated by renewable sources of energy.

      To meet the targets, to keep the lights on when the wind isn't blowing much, the SSE will need to acquire many more sites to set up many smaller pumped-storage hydro schemes.

      They're aren't that many really good sites available. We should make the best use of the few really good sites.

      My 20 times more than SSE's at upwards of 600 Giga-Watt hours could keep the lights on in Scotland for 100 hours easy.

      I am glad the SSE engineers did work out their own scheme - it's an inspiration - but being so inspired by the SSE's proposal the site, I do believe that my vision of a much bigger hydro scheme for Coire Glas is the way to go.

    7. The point I was making about the 9 million tons of rock excavated for your caverns was that it comes out of the tunnel entrances so that equates to 600,000 normal truck movements (there & back, remember)
      That rock will have to be transported a hell of a long way to be dumped / sold, whatever and that alone would put paid to the scheme. I can't see the locals accepting those sorts of traffic loads. Those huge lorries of yours are fine for on-site haulage only.

      Listen Peter: I think It's grand that you are clearly thinking of the bigger picture and I admire your reasoning for maximising the available sites.

      Why not write to SSE and let them know your thoughts? When you get a reply, pop back here and let us know - I am sure we would all love to hear what they say.

      All the best

  21. And Alan, please do tell where you got your 3D view of what looks like an Ordinance Survey map of Cruachan.

    I have used Google Earth to get 3D satellite views of Coire Glas and that is amazing and delightful to use but I've not found a 3D map option like the image you posted of Cruachan. Nice. I have got to get me one of these.

    1. Hi again, Peter.
      The 3D view is available from most Ordnance Survey mapping programmes - these are sold under license by firms such as Anquet and Memory Map.


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