Cruachan Power Station

Located at the north end of Loch Awe, some 5 miles (8 km) southeast of Taynuilt, Cruachan is a 440 megawatt pumped-storage power station. This means that water is raised to a high reservoir using surplus electricity during off-peak periods and then released once again to generate additional power during times of peak demand. Opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II on 15th October 1965, this was the first pumped-storage station to be built in the world and was an idea conceived by Scottish engineer Sir Edward MacColl (1882 - 1951). Much of the station is actually buried deep within Ben Cruachan but a guided tour, which takes visitors almost 1000m (3280 feet) underground, is available, together with a visitors' centre including interactive displays.

Water is conveyed to the generators from the reservoir by a pair of 305-m (1000-feet) long shafts, each 5m (16½ feet) in diameter and inclined at 55° to the vertical. These two shafts separate into four steel-lined shafts which carry the water to the turbines. The four reversible Francis pump-generators are located in a massive cavern, some 91.5m (300 feet) in length, 23.5m (77 feet) wide and 38m (124 feet) high. Originally all with 100 MW output, two machines were upgraded to 120 MW in 2005. A separate transformer hall lies adjacent. The access tunnel is 7.3m (24 feet) in diameter. The access limitations restricted the size of the individual pieces of equipment that could be carried into the turbine hall. The civil engineering works of the scheme were designed by James Williamson & Partners of Glasgow, and the main contractors were William Tawse of Aberdeen and Surrey-based Edmund Nuttall Ltd. The cost of the scheme was £14 million.

Further power is generated by a traditional power station at the outlet of Loch Awe, 5 miles (8 km) to the northwest. Cruachan was originally built and run by the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board, but was transferred to Scottish Power on privatisation (1990). It is now owned and operated by Drax Group, a Yorkshire-based power generation company, which bought the hydro-power assets of Scottish Power in 2018. Today, Cruachan provides 14% of the UK's total pumped-storage capacity, the only other in Scotland being the Foyers Hydro-Electric Power Scheme.

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