Exploratory works at the site of what would be the UK’s first large-scale pumped storage scheme to be developed in 30 years have commenced at Loch Lochy in the Great Glen in the Scottish Highlands.
SSE Renewables selected Strabag UK, a world leader in mining and tunnelling projects, to undertake the work earlier this year. The company which has extensive experience in complex infrastructure and ground engineering, was named the preferred tenderer to carry out the work after a rigorous selection process which concluded in April.
The work will see the creation of a tunnel approximately four metres wide and up to one kilometre long, which will cut into the hillside towards the proposed location of the underground powerhouse complex.
Samples of the materials within the hill will be analysed, and survey and assessment work will be carried out to give a detailed understanding of the geological conditions. The information will then be used in detailed design of underground structures.
The findings of the exploratory works will be used to inform the final design of the project and will be an important consideration in SSE Renewables’ final decision on whether to proceed with the Coire Glas project.
Ian Innes, Project Director for Coire Glas said:
“Coire Glas is one of the most significant engineering projects to take place in the UK for decades. The commencement of these exploratory works is a great milestone for everyone on the Coire Glas Project Team and at SSE Renewables.
“With a reputation for innovation and delivering a wide variety of specialist skills and services on major construction projects, I am confident that Strabag UK’s experience will prove an asset as we undertake this critical phase in the development of the Coire Glas project.”
In November 2021, SSE Renewables’ parent company, SSE PLC unveiled its Net Zero Acceleration Programme, or NZAP, which commits to investing around £7m a day on critical low-carbon infrastructure needed in net zero transition. Major infrastructure projects including Coire Glas are at the heart of the NZAP with a target to double our installed capacity by 2026 and more than treble it by 2031, increasing output fivefold to over 50TWh annually. The fully funded NZAP will see 40% of the £12.5bn capex spent in SSE Renewables.
Inverness Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, Stewart Nicol, commented: “It is great to see this significant milestone reached on this really important project for SSE Renewables. The significance of this project cannot be overstated for many reasons. Not only is it vital for our electricity industry in Scotland and the whole of the UK as we transition to Zero Carbon generation of electricity, this massive project will provide jobs and significant economic benefit to the whole of the Great Glen, including communities in Lochaber and around Inverness.”