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Loch Ness ecology at risk from pump storage hydro developments, say campaigners

By Val Sweeney

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The cumulative impacts of multiple pump storage hydro schemes on Loch Ness are not understood, say campaigners.
The cumulative impacts of multiple pump storage hydro schemes on Loch Ness are not understood, say campaigners.

Loch Ness is under threat from new and larger pump storage hydro developments, according to campaigners calling for a halt on further projects.

Hundreds of people have already signed an online petition addressed to Gillian Martin, the Scottish Government Minister for Energy, highlighting concerns about the potential environmental impact.

It states the proposed Loch Kemp pump storage scheme, combined with the existing Foyers and the consented Red John schemes, will raise/lower the level of Loch Ness by up to 73cm overnight.

"These dramatic fluctuations in water level will sterilise the shoreline ecology, disrupt natural currents within the loch and could raise the temperature of Loch Ness," it states.

The petition has been created by Brian Shaw, director of the Ness District Salmon Fishery Board (Ness DSFB) and so far has been signed by more than 460 people.

It says the developers of the Loch Kemp scheme acknowledge that the impact of multiple pump storage hydro schemes on the migration of juvenile wild salmon though Loch Ness is likely to be harmful but that no appropriate measures have been put forward to mitigate these impacts.

It maintains it could also impact on the the spectacle of dolphins feeding on wild Atlantic salmon, within metres of the shore at Chanonry Point.

The petition states: "Loch Ness is the most famous loch in the world and an iconic tourism destination.

"Natural lochs, especially Loch Ness, should not be used for pump storage hydro.

"Pump storage hydro will be an important part of energy storage and generation in the future, but there are plenty more suitable sites within Scotland (including others within the Ness catchment which are already under consideration) where the environmental risks and constraints are fewer."

It continues: "The cumulative impacts of development on this scale, on the ecology and hydrology of Loch Ness are not understood, nor has any attempt been made to provide answers.

"We are not against pump storage hydro per se, but they should to be located in less sensitive areas.

"We cannot allow our precious biodiversity to be trashed in what is akin to a gold rush for pump storage hydro developers.

"Planners and decision makers need to ensure that informed and strategic decisons are taken for the sake of the sustainability we all crave."

Campaigners say Loch Ness, should not be used for pump storage hydro.
Campaigners say Loch Ness, should not be used for pump storage hydro.

Statera Energy, a leading UK developer of flexible energy generation and storage technologies, recently submitted a planning application for a pumped storage hydro scheme at Loch Kemp near Whitebridge.

It wants 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, the construction 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 the four-year construction phase.

Plans for the Red John Pumped Storage Hydro Scheme, meanwhile, are set to be taken forward by Europe's largest renewable power generator after it took over the project last month.

Statkraft has agreed to acquire the 450MW hydro power scheme from Intelligent Land Investments Group (ILI).

The new £550 million hydro plant, which was first conceived in 2015 and granted permission back in 2021, is expected to support hundreds of jobs during construction and also provide locally-based permanent jobs once finally operational.

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