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ScottishPower’s Cruachan Power Station receives coveted Engineering Heritage Award



Cruachan Power Station in Argyll and Bute, the world's first high head reversible pumped storage hydro scheme, has been awarded the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Engineering Heritage Award, joining a prestigious list of recipients that includes the Waverley paddlesteamer and the Falkirk Wheel.

The Station, which is buried deep inside the ‘Hollow Mountain’ Ben Cruachan, was constructed between 1959 and 1965. Cruachan was the brainchild of Sir Edward MacColl, an engineer and a pioneer of hydro-electricity in Scotland, but who sadly died before the power station was opened.

Richard Campbell, Manager of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Engineering Heritage Awards presented the award to Station Manager Bob Wales, at a special presentation on Friday. The award recognises that Cruachan was the world’s first high-head reversible pumped-storage power plant.

Station Manager Bob Wales said: “We are of course very proud to be recognised by the institute’s Heritage Award. Cruachan power station represents an outstanding feat of engineering achievement and continues to provide the much needed flexibility to meet the UK’s electricity needs at short notice.”

Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, said: “It is an enduring testament to the skill and ingenuity of the engineers who constructed the station that Cruachan is still as relevant today as it was almost fifty years ago.

“Cruachan and other pump-storage stations like it will be one of the ways we are able to store renewable energy when it is not needed.  Cruachan has played a key role in balancing the electricity grid for the last fifty years, and I hope that it will continue to play a key role for many decades to come.”

Alan Reid, MP for Argyll and Bute, said: “I am delighted that Cruachan has been recognised in this way by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

“It is fitting that Cruachan is located on the banks of Loch Awe as the station, over a kilometre deep inside Ben Cruachan, is truly awe-inspiring.  It is not difficult to see why so many visitors to Argyll stop off at the visitor centre.  I congratulate everyone associated with Cruachan – past and present – on their stewardship of this fascinating example of Britain’s engineering heritage.“

Richard Campbell, Manager of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Engineering Heritage Awards said: “Cruachan power station has been a stalwart provider of peak-load electricity for nearly fifty years and is a very worthy recipient of an Engineering Heritage Award.

“Built a kilometre underground on Ben Cruachan, the power station is an awe-inspiring feat of engineering, in one of the most beautiful parts of the country.
“Cruachan was the first pumped storage power plant of its kind, which represented the cutting edge of early 1960s design and engineering.

“Now almost fifty years after it first opened, Cruachan still plays a valuable role to the country, providing thousands of homes with electricity when demand is at its highest.”

About Cruachan

Cruachan is a 440MW reversible pumped-storage Power Station, situated on the banks of Loch Awe in Argyll. One of only four pumped-storage facilities in Britain (and the world's first high-head reversible pumped storage hydro scheme), Cruachan is owned and operated by ScottishPower.

It was constructed during the early 1960's and was officially opened on October 15th 1965 by HerMajesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The Power Station is housed in a gigantic man-made cavern, built deep into the heart of Ben Cruachan. The only visible evidence of its existence is the high Storage Dam on the slopes of Ben Cruachan and the Administration Office block beside Loch Awe.

To meet peak demands, Power Stations must increase their output and bring on additional generating sets. During periods of minimum demand generator sets are switched off or run at part loads. For most conventional forms, of generation, using fuels such as coal, this variation in outputto match demand is inefficient.

This allows the conventional generator to continue at full output and the stored energy is then released to meet the peak demands, thereby reducing the need to turn on additional conventional generating sets.

Cruachan generates up to 440,000 kW of electricity during times of peak demand, using water from the upper reservoir on Ben Cruachan to drive the turbines.

At times when the demand is low, the surplus electricity is absorbed from the grid system to enable the turbines to be driven in the reverse direction to act as pumps. These pumps lift water from Loch Awe, which serves as the lower reservoir, back to the upper reservoir on Ben Cruachan.

Due to the large surface area of Loch Awe, the operation of the Power Station has little effect on its water levels.

Media Information: Paul Ferguson, 0141 614 4535