The UK’s first large-scale pumped storage scheme in four decades has reached a significant milestone, with exploratory tunneling at the Coire Glas site extending to 1000m, SSE Renewables has announced.

Located near Loch Lochy in the Great Glen, the Coire Glas project began its exploratory phase in December 2022. The work is being conducted by STRABAG. The ongoing efforts involve the creation of a tunnel approximately 4.5m wide, cutting into the hillside toward the proposed location of an underground powerhouse complex.

The primary goal of this tunneling work is to gather essential geological information that will inform the detailed design for the main construction phase.

Once completed, the Coire Glas scheme is expected to deliver 30GWh of long-duration energy storage. The project will utilize excess energy from the grid to pump water 500m uphill from Loch Lochy to a vast upper reservoir.

This development marks a crucial step forward in the UK’s efforts to enhance its renewable energy infrastructure and improve grid reliability.

The Coire Glas project is expected to require a capital investment of over £1.5 billion to construct .

The project, which received planning consent from the Scottish Government in 2020, would also more than double Britain’s total current electricity storage capacity – providing vital back up to an increasingly renewables-led system and bolstering energy security. SSE hopes to make a final investment decision on Coire Glas in 2024, subject to positive development progress and the prevailing policy environment, and to fully construct and commission the pumped storage scheme by 2031.