Drax has secured development consent for its new £500m underground pumped storage hydropower plant at its existing Cruachan facility in Argyll, western Scotland.

The UK-based electric services company has secured approval from the Scotland Government, under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 in May 2022.

The Cruachan hydro plant, planned to be built adjacent to the existing underground facility, would double the site’s total generation capacity to more than 1GW.

Alongside the UK Government, Drax would invest around £500m in the project, which would create around 1,000 jobs across the supply chain during construction.

Drax CEO Will Gardiner said: “This is a major milestone in Drax’s plans to build Britain’s first new pumped storage hydro plant in a generation.

“These plants play a critical role in stabilising the electricity system, helping to balance supply and demand through storing excess power from the national grid.

“When Scotland’s wind turbines are generating more power than we need, Cruachan steps in to store the renewable electricity so it doesn’t go to waste.”

In 2019, Drax acquired Cruachan, the Galloway and Lanark hydro schemes.

According to the company, the expansion of Cruachan requires an updated financial stabilisation mechanism from the UK Government.

Drax said that the new 600MW plant at Cruachan is part of its broader £7bn strategic investment plan in clean energy technologies between 2024 and 2030.

The plan includes long-duration storage and Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), which address climate change and enhance national energy security.

Furthermore, the company said that pumped storage plants serve as giant water batteries, which store excess power from sources such as wind farms when supply outstrips demand.

Scotland First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “I’m delighted to visit Cruachan today to hear more about the plans to grow Scotland’s pumped storage hydro capacity through the expansion of the existing facility in Argyll.

“Hydropower has real potential to play a greater role in our transition to net zero and to help ensure a resilient and secure electricity supply across the UK.

“The expansion of Cruachan will help to strengthen our energy security by providing much-needed resilience in the system, supporting hundreds of jobs and providing a real boost to the Scottish economy.”