Cruachan Power Station
|Cruachan Power Station|
The dam containing the upper reservoir
|Location||Argyll and Bute|
|Commission date||15 October 1965|
|Pumped-storage power station|
|Upper reservoir||Cruachan Reservoir|
|Upper res. capacity||10,000,000 cubic metres (350,000,000 cu ft)|
|Penstocks||19 km (12 mi)|
|Lower reservoir||Loch Awe|
|Hydraulic head||396 m (1,299 ft)|
|Nameplate capacity||440 MW (590,000 hp)|
|Annual generation||705 GWh (2,540 TJ) (2009)|
The Cruachan Power Station (also known as the Cruachan Dam) is a pumped-storage hydroelectric power station in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. The turbine hall is located inside Ben Cruachan, and the scheme takes water between Cruachan Reservoir to Loch Awe, a height difference of 396 metres (1,299 ft). It is one of only four pumped storage power stations in the UK, and is capable of providing a black start capability to the National Grid.
Construction began in 1959 to coincide with the Hunterston A nuclear power station in Ayrshire. Cruachan uses cheap off-peak electricity generated at night to pump water to the higher reservoir, which can then be released during the day to provide power as necessary. The power station is open to visitors, and around 50,000 tourists visit it each year.
Construction commenced in 1959, and was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 15 October 1965. The concept was designed by Sir Edward MacColl, who died before it opened. The civil engineering works of the scheme were by James Williamson & Partners of Glasgow, and the main project contractors were William Tawse of Aberdeen and Edmund Nuttall of Camberley. At the peak of the construction, there were around 4,000 people working on the project. Thirty-six men died in the construction of the power station and dam, and the cost of the scheme was £24.5 million.
Cruachan was one of the first reversible pumped-storage systems, where the same turbines are used as both pumps and generators. Previous pumped-storage systems used separate pumps with a network of pipes to return water to the upper reservoir, making them much more expensive to build than conventional hydroelectric systems. Cruachan is predated by the smaller 232 megawatts (311,000 hp) Lünerseewerk (de) of 1958 and the 360 megawatts (480,000 hp) Ffestiniog Power Station of 1963. It is one of four pumped storage schemes in the UK.
Its construction was linked to that of Hunterston A nuclear power station, to store surplus night-time nuclear generated electricity. The power station was originally operated by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, before being transferred to the South of Scotland Electricity Board. It has been owned by Scottish Power since the privatisation of Britain's electricity industry in 1990, and they are looking to increase capacity to 1,040 MW.
Its early life was fraught with technical difficulties, but the size of the maintenance team has been reduced from 30 in 1989 to 12 in 2010. Maintenance of the penstocks, which formerly required them to be drained, is now done using a remotely operated underwater vehicle.
Water is pumped from Loch Awe to the upper reservoir, 396 metres (1,299 ft) above, during periods of low energy use (such as at night), and then released during the day. The upper reservoir receives also rainwater; supplemented by a network of 19 kilometres (12 mi) of tunnels. Around 10% of the energy from the station is generated from rainwater; the rest is from the water pumped up from Loch Awe.
The station is capable of generating 440 megawatts (590,000 hp) of electricity from four turbines, two of 100 megawatts (130,000 hp) and two of 120 megawatts (160,000 hp) capacity, after two units were upgraded in 2005. It can go from standby to full production in two minutes, or thirty seconds if compressed air is used to start the turbines spinning. When the top reservoir is full, Cruachan can operate for 22 hours before the supply of water is exhausted. At full power, the turbines can pump at 167 cubic metres (5,900 cu ft) per second and generate at 200 cubic metres (7,100 cu ft) per second.
The power station is required to keep a 12-hour emergency water supply in order to provide a black start capability to the National Grid, where utilities have to be restarted without access to external power. Cruachan is also used to cope with sudden surges in the demand for power, such as at the end of television programmes.
The station is, however, a net consumer of electricity as it uses up more power for pumping water and spinning its turbines than it actually generates. It does consume lower priced off-peak electricity and produces electricity of higher value at peak times.
There are four Francis turbines, which operate both as pumps and generators. These are housed in a cavern located within Ben Cruachan, which is 91.5 metres (300 ft) long, 23.5 metres (77 ft) wide and 38 metres (125 ft) high, with an adjacent transformer hall. The chamber is at a depth of around 300 metres (980 ft), and is located within a hard granite intrusion. Construction of the power station required the removal of 220,000 cubic metres (7,800,000 cu ft) of rock. Access is gained to the hall by a road tunnel 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) long, 4 metres (13 ft) high and 7 metres (23 ft) wide, which is sufficiently warm and humid to allow tropical plants to grow.
The transformers step up the voltage from 16 kV to 275 kV for transmission. Six oil-filled cables carry the power up a cable shaft to a point in front of the dam, and then it is carried on pylons to Dalmally 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) to the east. The staircase in the cable shaft has 1,420 steps, making it the tallest in Britain.
After passing through the turbines, the water enters a surge chamber designed to balance fluctuations in the level of water before entering the tailrace tunnel to Loch Awe, which is 7 metres (23 ft) in diameter and 935 metres (3,068 ft) long.
The Cruachan Reservoir is 396 metres (1,299 ft) above Loch Awe, and is contained by a dam 316 metres (1,037 ft) long. The reservoir has a catchment area of 23 square kilometres (8.9 sq mi), and is capable of holding 7 gigawatt-hours (25 TJ) of energy. Environmental restrictions meant that the dam had to have a "clean" structure, so the operational equipment is located within the dam wall itself.
The penstocks are a pair of tunnels, 260 metres (850 ft) long and inclined at 56° from the horizontal with a 5.3 metres (17 ft) diameter, which then bifurcate into four steel lined 190 metres (620 ft) long, 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) diameter shafts. The penstocks underwent a major inspection and refurbishment in 2003.
The power station was listed by the conservation organisation DoCoMoMo as one of the sixty key monuments of post-war Scottish architecture. In November 2012, the power station received the Institution of Mechanical Engineers' Engineering Heritage Award.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cruachan Dam.|
- R. S. Riddell Black (1966). The Hollow Mountain. Scottish Screen Archive (North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board / National Library of Scotland).
- Hydroelectric Royal Opening. British Pathe. 1965.