Drax Group’s Cruachan pumped storage project in Scotland is set to benefit from a £1million upgrade of its turbine control system.

The three-year project will involve replacing the station’s current programmable logic controller (PLC) with a new design. ITI has been contracted to undertake the design, installation and commissioning of the upgrade across the station’s four units.

Cruachan has played a critical role in stabilising the country’s electricity system throughout the Covid-19 pandemic due to its flexibility. The plant can generate power in less than a minute when needed and can also store excess electricity from the grid. In July, Cruachan became the first power station in Britain to provide critical system support services to the National Grid as part of a world-first stability contract aimed at reducing the threat of blackouts.

“As the country continues to decarbonise, the station’s flexibility has never been more important. This upgrade will ensure the Hollow Mountain can deliver the fast, flexible power that hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses rely on for many decades to come,” commented Ian Kinnaird, Drax Group’s Head of Hydro.

ITI has a long history with Cruachan and the other hydro assets which Drax owns and operates in Scotland. ITI is the new name for Servelec Controls, which installed the current PLC control systems in 1987 and built the control system which allows the Lanark and Galloway Hydro Schemes to be remotely managed when needed from Cruachan’s underground cavern from a single interface.

“We’ve been working at Cruachan Power Station for over 30 years now, and in that time have developed a deep understanding of their assets, their systems and their operational requirements,” said Bryn Thomas, Sales Director for Power and Infrastructure at ITI. “It is these strong relationships with our customers that enable us to work with them on developing transformative solutions that enhance their operations, improve safety and support sustainable green energy production.”

Control room operator at Cruachan Power Station. Courtesy Drax Group