Top 8 Biggest Hydroelectric Power Plants in the UK
The three primary types of hydroelectric power plants in the UK are pumped storage, run-of-river power plants, and storage schemes.
The International Hydropower Association (IHA) estimates that Britain has a hydropower potential of 2.4 gigawatts (GW). Hydropower expansion is anticipated to be restricted to small-scale applications, with the exception of pumped storage projects, despite the enormous potential.
The top five hydroelectric power plants in the UK are profiled by NS Energy.
In the UK, there are a lot of hydropower plants with outputs ranging from a few hundred Watts to hundreds of Kilowatts. Details of some of the largest hydroelectric power plants in the UK (80MW+) are listed below. With the exception of Dinorwig, the largest of them all and the largest in the UK, which is in North Wales, they are all situated in Scotland.
There were 1,576 hydropower facilities in the UK. The number of hydroelectric facilities in the nation increased by more than five times between 2003 and 2021. Since the late 19th century, hydropower has been used to generate electricity, but it has recently become more significant as people have become more aware of the harmful effects of burning fossil fuels. Hydropower could assist in achieving the UK government’s pledge to become carbon neutral by 2050.
The UK is a great location for hydroelectric power station construction due to its mountainous terrain and high reservoirs. In England, Wales, and Scotland, hydroelectricity generates about 1.65 GW of energy, or about 1.8% of our total installed capacity. Since the majority of the present-day stations were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s, recent development has been impeded by worries about environmental issues. Many potential hydroelectric power plants are located in protected natural areas, and the expense of building them is frequently regarded as prohibitive.
With hydroelectric power, it’s not just about producing a lot of electricity. Micro-hydro solutions, smaller designs that frequently produce in the range of 50-100 kW, started to appear in the UK in the early 2000s as a result of the need to find new and renewable technologies to lessen our reliance on fossil fuels.
There are currently about 100 installations in the UK, many of which are community projects like Torrs Hydro in New Mills and Stockport Hydro. Some are private, like Cranage Hydro at Holmes Chapel.
The 1,728-megawatt (MW) Dinorwig power plant is situated in the northwest Welsh region of Snowdonia. The power station in north Wales’ Elidir Fawr mountain was constructed in caverns and offers quick response to sudden electricity demands.
The power plant employs pumped-storage technology and is run by First Hydro Company, a subsidiary of Engie.
The pumped hydroelectric plant, which was finished in 1984, has six generating units and 16 km of underground tunnels.
The generators that turn the kinetic energy into electricity are connected to the six 300MW Reversible Francis-type turbines. 10km of underground 400kV cables connect the power station to the Pentir National Grid substation.
With an energy storage capacity of about 9.1 gigawatt hours (GWh), Dinorwig can also transition from standby to peak capacity in less than 16 seconds.
The Cruachan Pumped Hydro Storage Plant, located in Scotland’s hollowed-out Ben Cruachan mountain, was inaugurated by the Queen in 1965.
When there is little demand for electricity, the station uses reversible turbines to pump water from Loch Awe to fill an upper reservoir on the mountainside.
The size of a football field, the station’s machine hall has four Francis turbines. A 1 km long tunnel leads to the turbine hall.
Water for the plant’s generators comes from a reservoir 396 meters above ground, on the Ben Cruachan mountainside. Using a system of pipes and tunnels that span 19 km, rainwater is diverted from streams and dumped into the reservoir.
The four Francis turbines work as both generators and pumps. Two of the turbines can produce 100 MW of power each, while the other two can produce 120 MW of power each.
The Ffestiniog power station, in Gwynedd, northwest Wales, is close to Ffestiniog and was put into service in 1963. The four generating units at the plant have a combined output of 360 MW, which is sufficient to supply north Wales’ entire need for electricity for several hours.
The upper reservoir of Ffestiniog, Llyn Stwlan, is where the generation cycle begins. Tan-y-Grisiau collects water, which is then pumped back to Llyn Stwlan.
The plant is run by First Hydro Company, and when pumping water back up to the Llyn Stwlan, it actually consumes 39% more electricity than it produces.
During periods of peak demand, the Foyers power station uses water stored in Loch Mhor in the Scottish Highlands to power two 150MW reversible-pump turbines.
In a typical year, the plant can produce enough electricity to power close to 68,000 homes.
Each of the plant’s two pump turbines weighs more than 900 tonnes. In less than two minutes, the power plant can start producing electricity from scratch.
Foyers is remotely managed by Scottish energy company SSE from its renewable operations hub in Perth, Scotland. If necessary, it can provide 300,000 kW of electricity in 30 seconds.
One major dam, one pumped hydropower station, and one hydropower station are all part of the Foyers hydro scheme.
The Vaich Dam was built in the 1950s, resulting in Loch Vaich. Water is transported from this location and Loch Droma to Lock Glascarnoch, a second artificial loch behind Glascarnoch Dam.
From there, water travels through a 5-mile tunnel to the Mossford power plant, which produces nearly 250MW of electricity.
The Sloy power station, which is run by SSE, is situated close to Inveruglas on the banks of Loch Lomond. Four pipes with large inner diameters run down the mountainside to Loch Sloy, where the plant gets its water.
The North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board, which preceded Scottish Hydro Electric, began construction on Sloy in 1950 after receiving its commission. In the late 1990s, the station underwent renovations, and it reopened in 1999.
New turbines, generators, wiring, pipework, and interior decoration were all part of the work for the plant renovation. After being shut down, the Sloy power plant can resume full operation in five minutes.
Since 2009, The Glendoe has been in operation. Scotland, in the UK, is the location of the 100MW hydro project. SSE and HOCHTIEF Solutions developed the project. The equity in this project is owned by SSE.
The aluminum smelter in Fort William uses the power produced by the Lochaber hydroelectric turbine. A 15-mile, 4.5-meter-wide conduit built before World War II transports water from Loch Laggan to Loch Treig and then on to Ben Nevis, where it generates more than 80MW of electricity. The tunnel was the longest water supply tunnel in the world for 50 years.
The country’s biggest river-driven hydroelectric power plant is Beeston Weir in Nottinghamshire.
In Beeston, Nottinghamshire, there is a small hydroelectric project called Beeston Hydro. It generates up to 1.66 MW of electricity and is situated on the River Trent.
At Beeston Rylands Weir, Hyder Industrial Ltd. constructed the largest “run-of-river” hydroelectric plant in the UK in 1999. The plant was put into service on January 4th, 2000, and was subsequently sold to United Utilities in 2001.
The plant has a 20-year design life. 60 m3/s of water flow through the pair of turbines at the highest permitted flow rate. The facility uses a bio-acoustic fish-fence, a bubble curtain with sound that the fish do not like, upstream of the weir and during the salmon migration period. This fish fence directs migrating fish toward the fish ladder instead of the turbine intakes, where they can safely cross the weir. Currently operated by Infinis, the power produced provides enough electricity (1.5 MW, 1.66 MW) for 2000 homes, or a total of 5.26 GWh per year.
In the UK, the total capacity for producing hydroelectric power is just 2%, or less than 5% of the total capacity for producing renewable energy. The largest hydroelectric power plant is located in Dinorwig, but it can only produce 1.8 GW of power in a matter of seconds.
As of 2021, the United Kingdom was home to 1,576 hydropower plants. Between 2003 and 2021, the number of hydro facilities in the country increased by more than five-fold.
Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) are available to hydroelectric power producers in the UK for stations built after 2002 with a 20MW power output and for all others. Although the government is committed to doing everything in its power to support developers, community initiatives, and small scale developers being able to invest in and build hydro projects, the DECC claims that there is no national strategy for the nationwide development of hydroelectric power. Additionally, projects under 50 kW are only eligible for FITs, whereas projects between 50 kW and 5 MW can apply for FITs or ROCs.
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