Loch Ness hydropower project rejected

Materials World magazine
13 Aug 2019

Red John Loch NessA hydropower project based near Loch Ness, Scotland, has been rejected by the region’s local government amid concerns over the proposal’s safety credentials.

ILI had proposed the Red John 450MW energy development, which would have had water channelled between two dams – one at Loch Ness and another at an upper head pond.

Red John was proposed to have a maximum dam height of 39m and a headpond working volume of five million cublic metres. The penstock length was 2,650m and the diameter up to 8m. The power cavern measured 100 x 40 x 40m.

Red John was estimated to offer 2.4GWh of storage capacity for the grid over a six-hour period, according to The Scotsman newspaper in June 2018.

Highland Council south planning committee members rejected the proposal on 7 August, citing concerns that key information, including a safety assessment, had not been submitted. 

‘We have got a three paragraph section which contains the bemusing phrase that “based on estimated annual probability of failure of the embankment the fatality rates are classed as being within a broadly acceptable number”. Could I ask what is a ‘broadly acceptable’ number of fatalities?' said Councillor Richard Laird, as quoted by The Inverness Courier.

Following the rejection, a public inquiry will now commence.

‘The system uses electricity to pump water from a lower reservoir to a higher reservoir. This pumping happens at times when there is more energy being produced on the grid network than is needed. This energy is stored until it is required, when the water is allowed to flow back through a hydro-turbine, generating electricity to meet sudden or predicted spikes in consumer demand,' a statement on the developer’s website read.

'This cycle of pumping and generating repeats on a daily basis as required. Pumped storage utilises excess generated electricity when consumer demand is low and generates electricity when demand requires.  

'It can be used at very short notice to provide what [ILI] directors consider to be a flexible and valuable balancing service to the relevant distribution network operator.’

Loch Ness already has hydropower operations, including Glendoe and Foyers, both owned by SSE.

Read more about Red John here.

Image: A schematic of the proposal. Credit: ILI.