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Cabinet Secretary visits Scottish hydropower icon

29 July 2011

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop paid tribute to the visionary design of Cruachan power station – also known as the Hollow Mountain.

                                Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs with Bob Wales, Head of Hydro Operations at ScottishPower at Cruachan Dam

The 1960’s station, set within the Ben Cruachan ridge, remains one of Britain’s most innovative hydro electric power schemes and is still making a significant contribution to satisfying the demand for power in Scotland and beyond.

Ms Hyslop said: “Cruachan turbine hall is a monumental Scottish hydropower achievement and 46 years after its Royal opening it continues to contribute significantly to the national grid and to attract visitors to look around the incredible feat of engineering, set in some of the Highland’s most spectacular scenery.

“Scotland has an incredible legacy of creating opportunities from our natural resources and stations like Cruachan demonstrate that these provide long-term returns.”

The visit follows an international conference on Scotland’s historic contribution to Hydropower hosted by the Cabinet Secretary last year.  A Historic Scotland study of the design and architecture of hydroelectric power in Scotland saw the station listed at category A, denoting its national and international significance.

Ms Hyslop added: “As a result of the study by Historic Scotland we now understand more about the international significance of sites like Ben Cruachan. The turbine hall was hollowed out entirely from solid bedrock and is the first example of the use of reversible pumped storage technology, allowing the station to have a major impact on the economy of the Highlands and to provide vital strategic energy supplies on a UK wide basis, to be located amongst some of its most spectacular scenery.

“What we have here is an immense feat of engineering and construction, innovative vision and respect for the community and landscape. Nearly 50 years after it opened we can still stand here and admire the achievement and consider it groundbreaking in its ambition.”

Bob Wales, Head of Hydro Operations at ScottishPower, said: “Cruachan is a fantastic feat of engineering and it remains a very important asset in Scotland’s electricity generation portfolio. We have invested tens of millions of pounds over the last few years to ensure that the station maintains it high performance levels.

“The fact that the station continues to play such an important role in the energy mix is testament to its original quality design and on-going levels of committed stewardship.”

Notes for editors

  • Her Majesty the Queen opened the power station in 1965 and it still provides vital peak load capacity today. While off-peak, the turbines run in reverse to pump water from Loch Awe back into the reservoir – a process which provides 90 per cent of the water used to power the station.

  • The reversible turbines at Cruachan were highly innovative and meant that a  separate system – as was used in conventional hydro systems of the time – was unnecessary. This technology had existed since the 1930s but Cruachan was one of the first large-scale applications in Europe.

  • It was the penultimate of the major post-war hydro electric developments by the nationalised North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board (NoSHEB). The scheme played a key role in achieving the social agenda of generating electricity that could be exported easily to the grid and sold to Scotland’s central belt to subsidise the provision of electricity to remote Highland communities.

  • For images of the Cabinet Secretary’s visit please contact Lesley Brown at the numbers or email address below.

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

For further information

Lesley Brown
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07920 768096