We know about the Loch Ness Pumped Hydro Storage Plan. A project that could double Scotland’s wind capacity and power 400,000 homes.
Scotland is pursuing an aggressive offshore wind program that includes innovative technologies such as floating wind farms. In fact, you sometimes have too much renewable energy available. Intelligent Land Investments claims to have the solution: a massive 2.4 gigawatt-hour pumped hydroelectric storage facility on the shores of Loch Ness. Once completed, it could supply up to 400 megawatts of power for six hours – a feat that Wired UK says could double Scotland’s wind capacity and power 400,000 homes.
This pumped hydro proposition will take advantage of the fact that an electric motor can also be a generator. A properly designed electric motor is happy to work in any direction.
The key to this pumped hydroelectric facility will be its electric turbines. The flowing water will spin them in the right way to generate electricity, but they can also reverse direction to pump the water back uphill from a lower reservoir. That is exactly what Intelligent Land Investments plans to do on the shores of Loch Ness.
The great advantage of pumped hydroelectric storage is that the energy is available on demand, which means that it is available to be served when it is needed to feed the electricity grid. A gas-fired generating plant takes time – half an hour or more – to start up. However, pumped hydro can react as quickly as a storage battery, and under certain conditions, the cost of battery storage today can equal the cost of building a pumped hydro system.
The other factor influencing storage batteries is that they can be installed fairly quickly and with very little time for site preparation and clearance. The Loch Ness project will take years to complete, assuming you get all the necessary approvals. All storage facilities can affect fragile ecosystems, but the size of any pumped hydroelectric facility means that it will impact a large area. For those Scots who are concerned that the project could alter the ecosystem of the hills around Loch Ness, the company assures them that the landscape of the upper reservoir can resemble that of the surrounding lakes.
The upper lake will be located 100 meters (vertically) above the hydroelectric turbine and will require 2,650 meters of pipeline. The project will take approximately five years to complete.
Currently, Loch Ness already has another hydroelectric power station pumped at the opposite end of the lake. Loch Ness is 36.3 km long and covers an area of 56.4 km2, so this may not be the last hydroelectric project pumped into the lake that we see.
An old gold mine in Australia has been repurposed as a pumped storage facility for hydrocarbons. Switzerland has one of the largest hydroelectric energy storage facilities in the world, with 1,450 MW of stored power. And China is leading the way with new variable speed generator technology that could make pumped hydro more efficient. Regardless of whether or not the proposed storage facility is built near Loch Ness, pumped storage of hydroelectric power is likely to remain one of the tools that will advance the renewable energy revolution.