Welsh scheme could herald "many" more pumped storage schemes in the UK

The first grid-scale pumped storage facility to be built in Britain for more than 30 years has been given the go-ahead by the government.

Developer Snowdonia Pumped Hydro (SPH) has been granted planning permission to turn two abandoned slate quarries at Glyn Rhonwy, near Llanberis in North Wales into water reservoirs that will store some 700 MWhs of electricity.

The £160m facility will use surplus electricity genrated at times of low demand to pump water through an underground tunnel from the lower to the upper reservoir.

When renewable power output is low or when fossil fuel generators fail to start, the water will flow back down the tunnel, spinning a turbine in an underground chamber to regenerate the stored electricity at a power output of 99.9 MW.

The chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, Dr Nina Skorupska said the project go-ahead may open the door to “many” more pumped storage scheme in the UK.

This would “improve our energy security, maximise value from already-constructed renewables, and give us a leading edge in what is a growing international market,” she insisted.

According to SPH, the UK could build some 50 GWh of pumped hydro storage using unconventional sites like ex-industrial quarries, coastal locations and existing drinking water reservoirs.

“There are signs that the government is taking storage seriously,” said SPH managing director Dave Holmes. “The National Infrastructure Commission last year urged swift action on storage, and a team inside the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is looking urgently at how planning barriers and market disincentives to storage can be addressed.

“We see the grant of permission for our Glyn Rhonwy scheme as highly significant, signalling a real change that will enable the UK to meet carbon reduction targets, while keeping electricity supply secure and prices for consumers under control,” added Holmes.


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