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Red John hydro plant above Loch Ness to be taken forward by Europe's biggest renewable power generator

By Philip Murray

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A scenes from a public exhibition at Dores Village Hall in 2020 about the plans for Red John. Picture: Gary Anthony.
A scenes from a public exhibition at Dores Village Hall in 2020 about the plans for Red John. Picture: Gary Anthony.

Plans for a major 450MW hydro power scheme in the hills above Loch Ness will be taken forward by Europe's largest renewable power generator after they took over the project.

Statkraft has agreed to acquire the Red John Pumped Storage Hydro 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.

Announcing its acquisition of the project, Statkraft said it demonstrated its "commitment to helping Scotland meet its renewable energy targets and strengthening UK energy security".

Located on a site around 14km outside Inverness in the hills near Dores, it will capture excess renewable energy, and store it until needed.

Related: Mowi lodges application to relocate fish farm on Loch Ness to enable construction of £550 million Red John pumped storage hydro scheme

Related: Inverness hydro power scheme hits heatwave snag - no water

Related: Planning application submitted for Loch Kemp hydro scheme near Loch Ness

Iain Robertson, Head of Statkraft Scotland, said: "Statkraft have a good neighbour ethos, whereby we seek to bring extra value to the locations where we operate, such as the Highlands, where we have a growing number of projects. We already have a range of local partnerships, including with the University of the Highlands & Islands, and Highland Renewables, and look forward to expanding our relationships in the future. This acquisition and the jobs it will bring further cements our commitment to the region, and to Scotland. But there needs to be an appropriate support mechanism in place, so we’re now looking to the UK Government to provide the certainty that will allow us to proceed with confidence.”

Founded in Norway more than 125 years ago, Statkraft is the largest producer of electricity from hydropower in Europe. The company already has a number of pumped storage plants in operation in Norway and Germany, alongside over 350 other hydropower plants, including Rheidol, near Aberystwyth, in Wales.

Visualisations of how the Red John scheme might appear 15 years after it is built.
Visualisations of how the Red John scheme might appear 15 years after it is built.

A developer and operator of technologies such as wind, solar, grid stability, hydropower, battery storage, and green hydrogen, Statkraft also has a strong presence in Scotland – including a headquarters in Glasgow, Keith Greener Grid Park in Moray, and operates several wind farms. Other projects in planning or under construction together represent at least £2bn of potential future capital investment in Scotland.

Intelligent Land Investments Group (ILI) is a leading clean energy development company based in Hamilton, Scotland. They have taken the Red John Pumped Storage Hydro project from initial conception to being development ready. ILI has established itself as one of the top energy storage developers in the UK, with a robust 4.7GW portfolio comprised of both Pumped Storage Hydro and battery storage projects.

Mark Wilson, CEO of ILI, said: “From its inception until now, Red John has been eight years in getting to this stage and has required the expertise and dedication of a fantastic team. I would especially like to thank the ILI team, AECOM, TLT, PwC, and everyone who has helped in reaching this exciting milestone. Entrusting Red John to Statkraft reflects our confidence in their capability to realise its potential and rekindle Scotland’s hydro legacy.

“As we stand on the threshold of a greener future where long-duration storage like Red John is paramount, we believe the UK can lead in renewable energy paired with energy storage as a keystone for the energy transition. There is over 5GW of pumped storage hydro projects in the UK pipeline which will inject billions into the economy and create over 15,000 new jobs. We encourage the UK Government to provide the support mechanisms now for long duration storage and strive to become a world leader in achieving net-zero.”

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