Red John – new pumped storage for Loch Ness29 October 2018
Intelligent Land Investments Group plans to develop a new pumped storage project in the Scottish Highlands using Loch Ness as the tail pond. The company is keen for the community to take a stake in what it says could be a transformational development.
Intelligent Land Investments Group’s (ILI) business is the development of land in Scotland. ILI employs an established and successful team whose expertise is in enhancing the value of land by selecting and preparing it to a point at which a construction company, or other type of developer, can build valuable properties on it – be that houses or renewable energy assets.
ILI’s team has developed and proven this expertise in the development of residential land, and primarily for wind and solar electricity generation assets. From 2008 to 2016, the team successfully secured planning permission for almost 100 small single turbine wind farms, most of which were sold for construction to various different entities.
Red John is ILI’s first venture in hydropower although they are currently working on two other similar projects also in Scotland following as part of the company’s roll out programme. ILI believe that should they be successful all three will be operational within ten years.
The proposed Red John project will be located on the eastern shore of the north end of Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland. The nearest community is Dores. Loch Ness is to be the tail pond for the project which will have a capacity of approximately 400MW with a maximum dam height of 45m. The head pond will be newly constructed as part of this project and will have a working volume of 5.4M m3. It will use the natural topography between Loch Duntelchaig, Loch Ashie and Loch na Curra and Lochan an Eoin Ruadha, from where the development gets its Red john name.
The penstock length will be 2650m and its diameter will be 6-8m. The power cavern size will be 100m long, 40m wide and 40m high.
Site selection involved an assessment of the geographical and technical aspects and legal ones to identify those with the best attributes and background to achieve success.
Any potential site has to pass a number of environmental and geographical criteria the most important of which requires two bodies of water (or the ability to create a second water body) at a sufficient height difference to allow the water to flow between at a suitable rate to generate electricity.
In addition, the landowner or owners have to be open to the potential development on their land and agree to allow the initial scoping to take place. After reviewing over 80 sites from 2015 onwards it was agreed by ILI and AECOM that Red John did meet these initial requirements allowing them to move onto the next stage.
The Scottish Government has set two ambitious targets of 100% of the country’s electricity consumption produced by renewable generation by 2020, and 11% of the country’s heat demand produced by renewable generation by the same year.
The main issue with renewable energy is its intermittency so in order for the government to realistically achieve these targets, industrial scale energy storage is vital for Scotland.
Mark Wilson, CEO of ILI: "Renewable energy capacity in Scotland has more than doubled since 2007, but due to its intermittent nature there is a need to store surplus energy from sources such as wind so it can be used when we need it most. Pumped storage hydro is the largest and cleanest form of energy storage that currently exists - and a key enabler in helping Scotland meet its green energy ambitions. As well as dramatically improving our energy security, this transformational proposal is a
fantastic opportunity for the community to benefit from the energy transition while helping turbocharge Scotland's decarbonisation efforts."
Research facilities across the globe have been working for a number of years on potential solutions for this issue with a number of alternatives provided including lithium batteries and supercapacitors but nothing so far has been able to deliver on the scale of what is required.
In addition, there are proposals for interconnectors with mainland Europe which can import European renewable energy assisting in the reduction of our carbon emissions. However, this leaves us reliant on international power companies. To counter this a cap and floor mechanism has been incorporated in which the government will guarantee a price per unit, limiting profits but protecting against losses.
Pumped storage hydro is another solution that does not involve new technology and has been proven for over one hundred years. It is most used in Japan with Italy and Austria being Europe’s biggest supporters of it. There are currently four of these types of generation stations in the UK but the most recent, in Wales, was built over thirty years ago.
ILI believe that this homegrown solution which will provide jobs, benefit the local communities and use natural resources. The company also believes it is a much more viable solution to interconnectors and cannot see any obvious argument against it. Energy experts have been advocating it for years, and with renewable energy generation seeking a solution to its intermittency issue, pumped storage hydro can provide a solution in an environmentally friendly way.
The Red John pump storage hydro project will potentially offer 400MW of renewable energy storage as we plan to use renewable energy at a time of surplus to pump the water to the head pond and when demand is high release the stored energy back into the grid. It would be bale to provide 2.4GWh of storage capacity for the grid over a six-hour period.
The environmental impact of the development is of extreme importance to ILI who remain determined to ensure that the overall impact is a positive one both for the local area and the entire country.
Along with technical consultants AECOM the environmental impact of the project has been examined thoroughly and a full Environmental Impact Assessment will be presented to the Scottish Government as part of the full planning application later this year. ILI are extremely confident that the overall impact of the project will be negligible. However, it should be noted that there may be some loss of habitat, something which unfortunately is almost impossible to mitigate fully due to the nature of the project and this type of development.
The majority of the finished development will be sited underground with the entire area restored to its pre-construction condition. The head pond will be entirely new and will use water from the tail pond Loch Ness. This will ascertain there will be no cross contamination from two different bodies of water.
The full planning application will be submitted later in 2018 and ILI expect an outcome towards the end of 2019. Should it be successful they will look to start pre-construction work immediately with full construction starting in 2020 with the construction period lasting for 3-5 years. It is expected that between 200 and 300 jobs will be created during the construction phase.
Written by Intelligent Land Investments Group Plc staff. For more details see www.redjohnpsh.co.uk