Drax’s hydroelectric Cruachan plant provides National Grid stability

Drax’s hydroelectric Cruachan plant provides National Grid stability

Drax Group’s Cruachan hydroelectric pumped storage plant in Argyll in Scotland has begun supplying critical system stability support services to keep Britain’s power system secure.

The six-year partnership with National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), which is responsible for balancing supply and demand for electricity in Great Britain, is part of a strategy to decarbonise the grid.

Built inside a hollowed-out mountain, one of Cruachan Power Station’s four generating units will provide the grid with support services including inertia.

This helps to keep the electricity system running at the right frequency to reduce the risk of power cuts.

It will achieve this through using a small amount of power from the grid to spin the turbine 600 times every minute offering inertia to the grid to manage changes in frequency without generating unneeded electricity.

Drax Group chief executive Will Gardiner said: “Drax is a leading provider of system support services in Great Britain. This new partnership underlines our commitment to enabling a zero carbon, lower cost energy future.

“Cruachan has played a critical role in the growth of renewables over the last decade and this new contract will enable more wind and solar power to come onto the grid in the years ahead.”

Inertia was traditionally a by-product of the kinetic energy in the spinning parts of large traditional power stations.

As the country’s electricity system has transitioned from traditional sources of power like coal to renewables, such as wind and solar, there has been an increased need to separately procure inertia to maintain stable, secure supplies of power.

Through the stability tender the ESO has procured the equivalent amount of inertia as would have been provided by around five coal-fired power stations – and in the process will save consumers up to €139m over six years.

ESO head of networks Julian Leslie added: “The GB electricity system is one of the most advanced in the world, both in terms of reliability and the levels of renewable power, and we’re really excited to be adding to that with this new approach to operating the grid.

“Our contracts for stability services with providers such as Drax are cheaper and greener, reducing emissions and saving money for electricity consumers.

“This approach – creating a market for inertia and other stability services – is the first of its kind anywhere in the world and is a huge step forward in our ambition to be able to operate the GB electricity system carbon free by 2025.”

Cruachan power station is a unique pumped hydro storage plant located in the hollowed-out Ben Cruachan mountain.

Using its reversible turbines, the station pumps water from Loch Awe to fill an upper reservoir on the mountainside at times when demand for electricity is low.

This process allows the plant to act like a giant battery to store the water for when it is needed.

When demand increases, the stored water can be released through the plant’s turbines to generate power quickly and reliably

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Pattack Hydro Station Energised

Pattack Hydro Station Energised

Pattack Hydro Station Energised by Powersystems

Pattack Hydro Project 

Powersystems have successfully completed the energisation of two Hydro Powers Schemes in North Scotland, fulfilling the Gilkes Energy Ltd contract for; design, supply, installation and commissioning of the high voltage infrastructure interconnecting the multiple power houses on each project. The two schemes, Pattack Hydro, a 2 MW scheme with two power houses and Attadale Hydro, a 3.5MW scheme with 3 power houses will now contribute to the UK’s renewable energy targets by generating low-cost, clean energy for many years to come.

The Pattack Hydro Project is a 2 MW scheme located on the Ardverikie Estate near Loch Laggan in the central Highlands of Scotland.
A 6.5km pipe transfers water from a large dam to the powerhouse. This vertical drop, known as the ‘Gross Head’ of the project is 150m. The pipeline is made of Glass Fibre Reinforced Plastic (GRP). A Gilkes Francis solution is used, operating at a design flow of 1,600 l/s. This turbine is a reaction type turbine which is optimised for low-head, high-flow applications and provides high efficiency at peak power.
 
Construction mobilization started in early 2016. As well as being an investment partner in the project, Gilkes Energy is also the lead engineer, providing design, project management and construction supervision services during the construction phase, as well as managing the operation and maintenance of the facility thereafter. The lead civil contractor is TSL Contracting, an experienced civil contractor based on the Isle of Mull.

The Pattack Hydro Project project is a classic medium-head, high-flow design incorporating a dam and single intake, high-pressure pipeline and a high-efficiency Francis turbine in a purpose built powerhouse. The Pattack Hydro project was developed to the point of achieving planning permission and the necessary permits by RWE Innogy and further developed to a “construction ready” stage by Gilkes Energy during 2015 and 2016. After a detailed tendering and procurement exercise the project construction became operational in August 2017. 

Commenting on the project, Carl Crompton of Gilkes Energy said: “Thanks to everyone who has worked on bringing this ambitious project to fruition. The Pattack Hydro Project will support approximately 30 full-time jobs at a very local level, for the duration of the construction period, along with 7-8 highly skilled engineering and project management jobs, all based in Scotland. Once operational the Pattack Hydro Project will employ a permanent part-time local ‘caretaker’ and maintenance and routine servicing will be provided to the projects by the Gilkes Service Centres in Invergordon and Fort William.

The Pattack Hydro Project is one of the largest to date developed by Gilkes Energy. It has a long (6.5km) pipeline, but drops a relatively short vertical distance of 150m (the “Head” of the scheme). This means that the flow rate is high for its power output and large-diameter high-flow pipes (up to 1.7m in diameter) are required. Much of the cost of the project is in the dam and the pipeline so a significant ‘value-engineering’ exercise had to take place in order to make the project economics sufficiently robust for our investors to give the project the ‘green-light’ to commence construction. All hydro projects have different engineering and construction challenges. One of the main challenges of this project is to ensure that approximately 500 large-diameter, glass reinforced plastic ‘GRP’ pipes are placed with almost millimeter precision over a distance of 6.5km over a mix of different ground conditions.

This Pattack Hydro Project brings the total capital deployed in Gilkes Energy projects to more than £80m which is clearly a significant milestone. Bringing a project of this size to fruition takes years of effort. We need to manage the diverse interests of the statutory bodies, local stakeholders, landowners and investors. Additionally we have to work to very tight timescales due to deadlines imposed by the structure of the Feed In Tariff.

The professional team we have put together at Gilkes Energy includes engineers, project managers and finance specialists, all focused on one thing – delivering quality hydro projects. Unlike other developers and consultants we offer a ‘one stop shop’ of capital and delivery ie investment and the expert design and project management services to realise that investment. All our projects to date have been delivered on time and budget, and provided it keeps raining, should deliver their target return on investment.

Hydro project assets last for a very long time, typically longer than 60 years, so have to be engineered with that timeframe in mind. Each project we deliver makes a small step towards our national renewable energy targets, and because the assets last for such a long time, our projects keep contributing to the fight against climate change year on year, long after the diggers have left site.”

The project started generating in September 2017 and was delivered on time and on budget.

These projects follow up the successful completion of Bruar & Lochy Hydro schemes in 2015/2016, reinforcing Powersystems track record within the Hydro sector which spans over 25 years.

 

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