Plans were announced yesterday for a £200m hydro electricity scheme on the Isle of Lewis, which could deliver a significant boost to energy production in Scotland.
Eishken Limited is planning the installation of a large pumped storage hydro (PSH) scheme, capable of generating 300MW, on the Eishken Estate in the south east of the island.
The company says the scheme could power more than 200,000 homes – around 10 times the number of households recorded in the Lewis and Harris in the last census.
Storing electricity principally generated by wind farms on Lewis, it would increase by 40% the use of the Western Isles Link, the cable being installed by the National Grid to export and import electricity generated from renewable energy sources on the islands.
The developers say substantial community benefit would be delivered by the scheme, through a share of any financial surplus.
Adjacent to and forming part of the already consented 162MW Muaitheabhal Wind Farm, the proposed scheme would enable part of its output to be stored until required, allowing it to balance intermittent wind conditions.
Yesterday Nick Oppenheim, owner of the estate, said: “There are very few PSH schemes throughout the UK and what we are proposing is particularly innovative given the use of the sea as the lower reservoir.
“This scheme will not only materially enhance the benefits to be derived from the Western Isles link but will make a material difference in the supply of energy to the mainland. It will also be a key element in the Scotland’s renewable energy armoury.”
Eishken estimate that more than 150 jobs would be created during the three to five-year construction period.
Last year French energy giant GDF Suez pulled out of the wind farm project because of uncertainty over over the installation of the subsea interconnector cable.
Eishken is expected to seek consent for the scheme later this year.
AECOM, the international infrastructure design and engineering consultancy, is advising the company on the technical aspects of the project.
Meanwhile, the importance of hydro schemes in the country’s energy mix was again highlighted by Business, Innovation and Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse at the inauguration of a new scheme in Lochaber.
The event took place at RWE Innogy UK’s Cia Aig £12m run-of-river hydro scheme around 20 miles north of Fort William.
Mr Wheelhouse said: “This 3 MW hydro scheme will help contribute to the growing importance of hydro generation in Scotland – the largest source of renewable power in Scotland after onshore wind.”
He added: “The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the development of renewables – including hydropower – as part of Scotland’s balanced energy portfolio, and we are already developing an overarching energy strategy, setting out what we can do to optimise the benefits of Scotland’s significant energy resources and expertise through to 2030.”
Also speaking at the event, Hannah Smith, policy officer at Scottish Renewables, said: “Scotland’s Highlands are synonymous with hydropower and developments like Cia Aig, which continue to make the most of the area’s superb natural resources, are to be welcomed.
“This technology already provides more than a quarter of the renewable electricity generated in Scotland, and with the right support from government hydro at all scales can continue to thrive, delivering economic benefits and helping us meet our climate targets.”