Planning application submitted for Loch Kemp hydro scheme near Loch Ness
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A proposed green energy project on the south side of Loch Ness has taken a major step forward with the submission of a planning application.
If given the go-ahead, it would inject £30 million into the Highland economy and create hundreds of jobs during the four-year construction phase, say the developers.
Plans for a pumped storage hydro scheme at Loch Kemp near Whitebridge were first revealed two years ago at public exhibitions.
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Following extensive survey work and consultation with the local community and statutory consultees, an application has now been submitted by Statera Energy, a leading UK developer of flexible energy generation and storage technologies.
The application is to build and operate a new 600MW pumped storage scheme using the existing Loch Kemp as the upper storage reservoir and Loch Ness as the lower reservoir.
As well as reducing carbon emissions and delivering greater energy security, construction of the Loch Kemp scheme is expected to give a £30 million boost to the Highland economy and a further £57 million to the Scottish economy and employ more than 350 people each year, during construction.
Longer term, the scheme will provide generational employment during operations, with up to 25 high quality permanent jobs.
David Rodger, Statera Energy’s business development director Scotland, believed it was an ideal site for a pumped storage hydro scheme.
"By making some adjustments to the height of Loch Kemp we can provide an energy storage solution which is much less obtrusive and has less impact for local residents," he said.
"We’ve carried out two rounds of public exhibitions and have been delighted by the positive reception we’ve received.
"We’ve listened carefully to concerns and made adjustments to plans to reflect comments made during the consultation process.
"Improving energy security is vitally important and this is one part of the jigsaw.
"Pumped storage hydro can be deployed on a large scale and Loch Kemp would increase the UK’s pumped storage hydro capacity by one fifth. It’s also one of the most efficient of any of the energy storage systems.
"This application marks another considerable step in our mission to expand our activities in Scotland and be the UK leader in providing flexible generation and storage to help balance a high-renewables electricity system and provide energy security."
Statera Energy said pumped storage hydro schemes have a significant role to play in the UK’s transition to net zero with their ability to optimise the electricity generated from renewables by storing and releasing it when it is required.
The Loch Kemp project had the potential to generate for 15 hours at full capacity, the equivalent of powering over one million homes.
Scotland’s mountains and large inland lochs, combined with plentiful renewables generation and high rainfall, made it an optimum location for pumped hydro storage.
Statera Energy said the Loch Kemp project offered significant efficiency benefits, given the shorter water routes, the lowered construction risks, and the existing top loch.
Since its first public exhibition in 2021, Statera has conducted a detailed environmental impact assessment, the results of which form part of the planning application which will now be considered by Highland Council before a final decision is made by the Energy Consents Unit of the Scottish Parliament.
Two years ago, the £550 million Red John pumped storage hydro scheme near Dores, developed by the ILI Group, was given the go-ahead by the Scottish Government despite strong objections from campaigners and Highland Council worried about the impact on the world-famous Loch Ness.