Coire Glas

A Natural Battery: The UK’s Green Energy Hope

The pursuit of net zero is a global marathon, not a sprint. With countries and corporations aligning their strides towards this eco-friendly finish line, the energy sector is feeling the heat. Amidst the juggling of hydrogen, wind, and solar power, one contender emerges from the Scottish Highlands, promising a green energy boon.

A Highland Hope

Nestled within the serene landscapes of Coire Glas in the Scottish Highlands lies the blueprint for Britain’s largest natural battery. Energy giant SSE has a $1,576,874,193.82 (£1.5bn) vision to harness the power of water, fashioning a flexible, renewable energy reservoir. With the capability of powering three million homes for up to 24 hours, this colossal hydro storage facility could potentially become Britain’s energy safeguard.

Finlay McCutcheon, SSE Renewables’ director of onshore, shares:

“At a group level, SSE’s strategy is completely focused on delivering the decarbonisation of the energy system.”

The Coire Glas project is not just a reservoir of energy but a fortress of flexibility, ready to unleash its stored green power to counterbalance the unpredictability of wind and solar energies.

Coire Glas Unleashed

Imagine a natural battery, capable of pacing itself for days or surging to full power within five minutes. That’s Coire Glas. McCutcheon elaborates:

“It can be used for days; you can run it at full maximum load for over 24 hours, or it could run day after day through the evening peak hours. But at the same time, it could run for minutes.”

This green guardian stands ready to displace the traditional reliance on oil and gas, heralding a new era of sustainable energy.

the Coire Glas project

Yet, every vision needs a green light. While SSE is primed to plunge into development, it awaits the UK government’s nod—a single policy decision that could catapult the Coire Glas project from blueprint to reality.

“We have a clear government target to have a decarbonised net zero power system by 2035, and I’m convinced that’s possible,” asserts McCutcheon.

The clock is ticking, and if Coire Glas is to join the green energy relay, the starting gun needs to fire within the next couple of years.

Early Moves

In a bid to grease the wheels, SSE has injected an extra £100m as a “down payment” towards the Coire Glas project. Gregor Alexander, SSE’s finance director, underscores this move as a “significant down-payment by SSE to keep this critical project moving forwards.” The policy environment, however, holds the keys to the project’s full acceleration.

Echoes from the Past, Vision for the Future

In a nostalgic yet forward-looking gesture, SSE is also breathing new life into the Sloy hydro power station on the shores of Loch Lomond. With an 80-year history rooted in the Hydro Electric Development Act of 1943, this revived powerhouse is poised to contribute to the modern green energy saga.

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf, during a visit to Sloy, highlighted Scotland’s reputation as one of the “world leaders” in renewables. He affirmed the country’s commitment to exploring the extensive potential of hydro power in the race to net zero, and called for the UK government’s support in harnessing long duration energy storage technologies.

The Urgency of Now

McCutcheon’s voice rings with urgency.

“We’re going through an amazing transition into a decarbonised energy system, and there are lots of things that we don’t know for sure right now,” he says.

In the face of the looming climate crisis, he underscores the imperative to mobilize and operationalize green energy solutions, placing wind, solar, and long-duration energy storage at the forefront of the UK’s decarbonisation march.

Indeed, with the 2030s looming and the climate crisis intensifying, the journey from blueprint to operational green energy bastions like Coire Glas is not just a possibility—it’s an imperative. Every blueprint penned, every policy decision made, and every investment injected is a step closer to a world where the green energy dream is not just alive, but fully charged and operational.

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