Stantec has announced it has supported Drax in gaining approval from the Scottish Government to boost the generating capacity of the existing Cruachan pumped storage hydropower station through the upgrading of units at the plant.

Located inside Ben Cruachan Mountain in Argyll and Bute, the power station’s turbine hall houses four generating units. The power station was originally commissioned in 1965, with Unit 1 and Unit 2 undergoing upgrades in the early 2000s. The final two units (3 and 4), will also now be upgraded, which is  expected to boost the generating capacity of the plant by more than 40MW to a total of 480MW.

“This project will enable the units to not only generate more power but also increase their operating flexibility and efficiency,” said John Ord, Stantec’s UK and Ireland business director for energy. “This is a vital futureproofing scheme supporting the UK’s energy transition, and we’re delighted to be so deeply involved with the future of Cruachan.”

Stantec’s environmental and consenting teams worked closely with Drax to prepare a comprehensive application for Section 36 consent. This took the environmental constraints of the location into account, as well as its unique heritage.

As the turbine hall is an A-Listed building, Stantec coordinated an application for Listed Building Consent which was granted by Argyll and Bute Council. Stantec’s planning and heritage teams engaged thoroughly with Historic Environment Scotland and Argyll and Bute Council ensuring that the submitted proposals were acceptable to both bodies. The firm also hosted a public consultation event to present the proposals for the upgrade project to local communities.

“The plans were met with a resoundingly positive reaction,” explained Lynsey Fraser, planning director at Stantec. “People were very pleased to learn Drax is investing in the future of the power station and increasing efforts to generate and provide more flexible, sustainable power to tens of thousands of homes across the UK.”

In 2023, Stantec supported Drax in gaining consent for the separate Cruachan Expansion Project. The planned new underground pumped storage hydropower station will be located adjacent to the existing station.

“For more than half a century Cruachan has played a pivotal role in balancing the grid and keeping the lights on across the UK,” commented Mike Wynd, head of hydro at Drax. “Drax believes pumped storage hydro will become increasingly important to Britain’s energy security as our power grid becomes more reliant on intermittent sources of electricity such as wind and solar. That is why we are investing in Cruachan today to ensure the power station can play an even bigger role in the energy system of tomorrow.”