Home   News   Article

Statkraft hopes to have Red John hydro scheme above Loch Ness running by 2030

By Philip Murray

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Willie Cameron, Iain Robertson, Donald Weir and Yvonne Crook. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Willie Cameron, Iain Robertson, Donald Weir and Yvonne Crook. Picture: James Mackenzie.

A MAJOR new hydro power scheme in the Great Glen could be fully operational by 2030, its operators hope.

Statkraft announced last week that it was taking over the planned Red John pumped storage plant, which is earmarked for the hills above Dores.

Following its announcement, the company, which is the largest renewables firm in Europe, this week set out its projected timeframe for development and construction.

In a special presentation on Monday to business and local community figures, it revealed that it hopes to begin construction in 2026, with a view to commissioning the site by 2029 and being fully operational by 2030.

The project, which was granted planning permission in 2021, would use energy from the power grid to pump water from Loch Ness to a reservoir high in the hills – where it would be stored until needed, at which point it would be released into turbines to generate electricity as and when demand requires it.

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

Related: Europe's largest renewable power generator invests in Highland tourism company

Sign up to our newsletter.

Once up and running the project would be capable of producing up to 450MW of energy – equivalent to around a tenth of the average demand for the whole of Scotland, or "multiples of ten times the demand of Inverness".

Iain Robertson and Donald Weir. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Iain Robertson and Donald Weir. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Addressing those attending the presentation, Donald Weir, the project director, said the scheme would play a key role in the UK's energy security.

He explained that storing potential energy this way means it can be used as a reliable source of power at times when wind or solar output fluctuates or general demand for power increases – picking up any slack in the grid and ensuring the move to net zero is possible.

It could also help to maximise the output of renewable sources like wind, as without storage capability in the grid, energy that could be generated by wind farms at night is otherwise not exploited due to low demand for power while most people are asleep.

Increased storage capacity through the likes of Red John means turbines could continue to operate during periods of low demand as the power generated could be held onto until needed later.

"There will be times when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine," he added. "Facilities like this one make the most of these assets."

An explanatory drawing highlighting how pumped storage works, pictured during a previous consultation event at Dores Village Hall. Picture: Gary Anthony.
An explanatory drawing highlighting how pumped storage works, pictured during a previous consultation event at Dores Village Hall. Picture: Gary Anthony.

He added that pumped storage and more conventional battery storage would both play a key part in the future of the national grid, with batteries providing the "more nimble" ability to respond immediately to heightened demand locally, with pumped storage then able to do the "heavy lifting" as they are then powered up.

"These are not contradictory [forms of energy] they are complementary. Without storage we will not reach net zero.

"This project will contribute enormously to renewables."

Mr Weir added that activity around the future site is expected to commence next year, when survey work will be conducted before detailed design is carried out from mid-2024 into 2025.

Following preparation work in late 2025, four years of construction would begin in 2026 – but he stressed that these times are indicative and could slip or accelerate as things proceed.

He said that the company is hoping to use the Caledonian Canal to ship in some of the bigger elements of the power plant – such as the turbines.

Statkraft's Ian Robertson, who also attended the meeting, added that the company generates 60 terrawatts of energy globally through its various renewable schemes around the world – equivalent to a fifth of the UK's entire power consumption.

He added that it has almost 500 staff in the UK: "We are here for the long term and always endeavour to be a good neighbour."

Yvonne Crook, chairwoman of the Highland Tourism Community Interest Company (HTCIC) – which has a vision to make the Highlands "one of the world's leading sustainable destinations" – also addressed the meeting.

"This is an exciting, sustainable vision everyone can buy into," she said. "It has the power to transform the regional economy."

Statkraft recently became a premier sponsor for HTCIC's Highland Renewables activities, which aim to bring together the renewables and tourism sectors to explore ways their combined investment and collaboration could boost the wider Highland economy.

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More