The Scottish government has approved plans to expand Argyll’s Hollow Mountain underground power station.
Renewable power developer Drax proposes building a new £500m pumped hydro storage plant at its existing Cruachan facility near Oban.
The company said the extension could be operational in 2030 and support 1,000 jobs during its construction.
But before it can go ahead, the project needs new UK government policy that would support private investment.
Developers of pumped storage hydro schemes argue that the current UK energy market does not have the mechanisms to make such major projects attractive to investors.
The schemes are costly to build and take a long time to construct – between five to eight years.
The existing underground power station at Cruachan was opened by the late Queen in 1965.
At the time, it was the first large-scale reversible turbine storage energy project of its kind in the world.
It is housed within a huge cavern dug out inside Ben Cruachan, which is nicknamed Hollow Mountain because of the project.
Drax has welcomed the Scottish government’s planning approval for the 600MW extension.
Chief executive 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.”
He said that with the right support from the UK government, investment would be made to more than double Cruachan’s generating capacity.
First Minister Humza Yousaf, on a visit to Cruachan, said the plans had the potential to help Scotland meet net zero targets.
He added: “The Scottish government will continue to urge the UK government to provide an appropriate market mechanism for hydro power and other long-duration energy storage technologies, to ensure that the potential for hydro power is fully realised.”
The UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has been approached for comment.
Pumped storage uses reversible turbines to pump water from a lower reservoir to an upper reservoir where the water is stored. The turbines are powered by excess electricity from wind farms.
When there is high demand for electricity, the water is released back through the turbines to generate power.
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