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Major hydropower scheme coming to Wales

Water ripples

Wales is set to get the UK’s first grid-scale energy storage project for more than 30 years after planning permission was granted for a 99MW pumped storage hydro (PSH) scheme, the first onshore hydro scheme to go through the fast-track Planning Act 2008.

The £160M Glyn Rhonwy Pumped Storage Hydropower plant in North Wales will generate electricity and store around 700MWh of electricity, or enough to power 200,000 homes for seven hours each day, helping to balance the grid at times of peak electricity demand.

It will use electricity to pump water from a low reservoir to a higher one when demand is low, and will generate electricity by letting water flow from the upper reservoir through turbines when demand is high. The underground power plant will be set in a deep shaft next to the lower reservoir.

The Planning Act 2008 was created to speed up the approval process for major infrastructure projects such as energy plants.

Glenmuckloch pumped storage hydro

Glenmuckloch pumped storage hydro

Source: Buccleuch

A diagram showing how a pumped storage hydro plant generates and stores energy.

Consultant Aecom has worked on the scheme for six years, providing services including engineering design and environmental consultancy to client Quarry Battery Company and its subsidiary Snowdonia Pumped Hydro.

“Today’s [Wednesday 8 March] DCO [planning permission] marks a significant milestone for this important project that will help boost the UK’s ability to respond to changing patterns of electricity generation and demand,” said Aecom environmental impact assessment director Catherine Anderson.

Originally the project was approved by Gwynedd Council as a 49MW scheme, before changes to the electricity market, including the introduction of contracts for difference (CfD) and the capacity market, made the project financially unviable. It had to be updated for its recent planning application.

Care is needed during construction as the site, set across two disused quarries just outside Snowdonia National Park, has a rich archaeological legacy and several protected species living in the area. Construction is expected to start within the next 12 months.

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