In late June, Scotland officially opened the Glendoe Hydro Scheme, a 100-MW project whose construction near Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands was the region’s biggest civil engineering project in recent times. Planning for the project began in 2001, and it took three years to build. Today, the project has the highest head — the drop from the reservoir to the turbine — of any hydro station in the UK, allowing it to generate more energy from every cubic meter of water than any other facility in the country, says project owner Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE).

The reservoir was formed by the construction of a 960-meter-long, 35-m-high dam on the River Taff (Figure 5). The project’s more complex construction phase was marked by digging an extensive tunnel system, which measures 16 km in total. In order to carve the tunnels out of the underlying bedrock, a 200-m-long boring machine was used. SSE says that in one instance, the machine entered the hillside in summer 2006 and emerged about two years later, having created 8 km of tunnels.


5. Highland hydropower. The 100-MW Glendoe Hydro Scheme near Loch Ness in Scotland officially opened in late June. The project’s owner, Scottish and Southern Energy, says it has the highest drop from the reservoir to the turbine of any hydro station in the UK, which allows it to generate more energy from every cubic meter of water than any other facility in the country. Courtesy: Scotavia

The actual power station is housed in a cavern 250 m below ground level — roughly 2 km from the banks of Loch Ness. This cavern stands adjacent to a smaller cavern that contains the main transformer.

The project has been much publicized and well-received — Queen Elizabeth herself declared it open — and SSE is already considering two new large pumped storage schemes in the Great Glen, plans that the company is expected to make public in 2011. For those reason — along with consideration of the UK’s frenzied preparation to meet stringent carbon goals — the Scottish media are speculating that Glendoe may just be the beginning of a new era for hydropower in the Highlands. Some point to a list of 102 hydropower development projects proposed by a 1946 regional hydroelectric board. These ranged greatly in size, but they encompassed almost every water course in the region.