Drax appoints contractor for £80m upgrade of Cruachan hydro plant

Drax has appointed Andritz Hydro as its main contractor for the £80 million Cruachan upgrade project.

The project will see the generating capacity of two of the hydropower plant’s four units increased by a combined 40MW, raising the facility’s total generating capacity to 480MW.

Drax’s Cruachan Power Station is located on the shores of Loch Awe in Argyll and is one of just four pumped storage hydro facilities in the UK.

The existing units were commissioned in 1965 and contain parts, including their turbines, which are now more than 50 years old.

Drax interim chief operating officer Penny Small said: “Pumped storage hydro is vital to the UK’s energy security, it’s a technology which works in partnership with renewables.

“These plants play a critical role in stabilising the electricity system, helping to balance supply and demand through storing excess power. When wind turbines are generating more power than we need, Cruachan steps in to store the renewable electricity so it doesn’t go to waste.

“By investing in Cruachan today, Drax is ensuring the power station can play an even bigger role in the energy system of tomorrow. We look forward to working with our contracting partners to deliver this exciting project.”

Andritz Hydro has installed around 470GW of capacity during its more than 180 years of operations.

Dominik Fust, Andritz Hydro managing director added: “We are proud to have been entrusted with the refurbishment of the Cruachan Pump Storage Power Plant. This project aligns with our mission to contribute to the global transition toward sustainable energy generation.”

The upgrade received development consent from the Scottish Government in December 2023 and was awarded a 15-year capacity market agreement in February worth £221 million.

Site works will commence in 2025 with Andritz to install new main inlet valves and then unitised outages in 2026 and 2027 for units 3 and 4 respectively.

The Cruachan upgrade is separate to Drax’s plan to build a new 600MW pumped storage power station adjacent to the existing facility.

No investment decision for the separate 600MW expansion has yet been taken by Drax and development remains subject to an appropriate regulatory framework.