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Snowdonia Pumped Hydro has submitted an application to the Planning Inspectorate for a Development Consent Order to build a £160m 99.9MW output pumped hydro electricity storage facility at Glyn Rhonwy near Llanberis.

The SPH scheme, which already has planning permission from local authority Gwynedd Council at an output of 49.9MW*, would re-purpose two abandoned slate quarries and is the first of a series of schemes that SPH parent company QBC intends to develop throughout the UK.

SPH wishes to double the output of the Glyn Rhonwy facility by increasing the capacity of the underground turbines and associated equipment. In every other respect the revised scheme would be identical to that already granted planning permission by Gwynedd Council.

The higher output would enable the Glyn Rhonwy facility to play a larger role in smoothing out the intermittency of renewables such as wind by capturing surplus electricity and releasing it when demand is high and renewables output is low.

Britain’s need for more grid-scale storage such as that planned at Glyn Rhonwy is now firmly on the UK government’s agenda. A dedicated team within the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) is examining how the build of more storage can stimulated, and large scale storage is also key focus of the newly-announced National Infrastructure Commission under former Labour peer Lord Adonis.

The percentage of renewable generators providing power to the grid has already left the UK’s four existing storage plants – built to back-up nuclear power stations – unable to cope. Because over-generation cannot be stored, households and industry are having to pay renewables operators more every year to stop generation when the wind blows too hard. Unless Britain builds more grid scale storage, these avoidable constraint payments to wind farms could reach £2.7bn a year by 2020, according to Imperial College London. The storage deficit also means that gas power stations and diesel generators must be kept on stand-by for when the wind drops or stops altogether.

QBC recently submitted evidence to DECC demonstrating how a new 10GW fleet of pumped hydro schemes built around the UK would cut £3.5 billion a year from the cost of decarbonising the grid, reduce carbon emissions by 5 million tonnes a year, and make the UK’s electricity supply more secure. Part funded by a £200,000 grant from DECC QBC carried out a UK-wide geographical survey that identified suitable sites with low planning risk for some 15GW of new pumped hydro storage.

The Glyn Rhonwy facility would be expected to have an operational life of around 125 years and support up to 30 full time local jobs. Hundreds of workers would be required during construction. Earlier this year SPH reached an agreement to lease 13 hectares of land for the scheme from The Crown Estate.

The first pumped hydro storage was built in the late 1800s in Europe and the technology now provides over 99% of grid-scale storage in the world. The recognition that renewables are intermittent generators and must be partnered by storage is leading countries to embark on rapid development of pumped hydro because it is the most proven, powerful and reliable and all storage technologies. Japan currently has the largest installed capacity but is expected to be overtaken by China which has the most new schemes in planning.

Snowdonia Pumped Hydro was created by parent organisation Quarry Battery Company to take the Glyn Rhonwy scheme forward to construction and operation. The scheme was designed in consultation with AECOM, Gwynedd Council, Cadw, Countryside Council For Wales and Environment Agency Wales (now Natural Resources Wales).

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Further editorial information:
Dave Holmes – 07999 552875
Kevin Fiske – 01189 344007

*Electricity storage facilities are treated by the UK planning system as generators. Schemes up to 49.9 MW output must apply for planning permission to a local authority. Those with an output of 50MW and up are classed as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects and are evaluated by the Planning Inspectorate, with the final decision being made by the Secretary of State.

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