Scotland: the green energy storage superpower?

Publication Date

In Scotland, it has been said that we are at the start of a hydro-pumped storage renaissance. Could we take this opportunity to become a green energy storage superpower?

The UK has ambitious plans to produce large quantities of electricity from offshore wind generation by 2030. Scotland is central to this green transition, with half of this energy to be produced here. But how will we store it?

It has been said that we are at the start of a hydro-pumped storage renaissance in Scotland. This is the most efficient large-scale storage solution we currently have. Couple technological development with the production of green hydrogen, Scotland could seize this as an opportunity to become a green energy storage superpower.

In this talk, learn about the latest developments in energy storage solutions and explore the trajectory of Scotland’s energy storage industry. Discuss the relationship between the green transition and the socio-political development of Scotland and hear about how we can harness the engineering legacy of hydro and the power of the Glens. Learn about projects like Coire Glas, the first large-scale pumped hydro storage scheme to be developed in the UK for more than 40 years.


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Please note transcripts are automatically generated, so may feature errors.


So I hope, good evening. Hope everyone can hear me. Okay. So that’s my great pleasure to welcome you, the race city of Edinburgh this evening. For our curious talk. The first things, the first thing we’re going to have to do is a bit of housekeeping, which I think is going to come up on the screen. We’re not expecting, we’re not expecting a fire drill today. So if we hear fire alarm, we’ll have to just follow the signs and we have to get out and gather outside the dome. So I think the information was meant to be coming. The other thing I need to tell you is that we’re live streaming today. So be aware of this when you’re asking questions and interacting. And so this evening, what we’re going to do is Professor Anderson will give his talk and I’m gonna give you detail in a minute, for about a half hour, 45 minutes, and then you’ll have an opportunity to ask questions and we can have conversation together. So, and this is going to be doing a bit of reading because I haven’t done all this. So Professor Anderson, Managing Director of COWI, and he is managing director of the consultancy firm COWI and he’s a visiting professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Strathclyde University where, in fact the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Strathclyde University where I worked for. And he is an engineering geologist by training through the University of Edinburgh and Leeds is a chartered engineer, and a fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He works in the fields of infrastructure development and renewable energy. His area of specialisation is in the development of underground underground space, having worked on some of the world’s largest tunnels projects around the world for infrastructure development, mining, science, water and power, including the large project on pump hydro storage that he will talk about today. So just briefly, not to say too much but in the talk, this evening, you’ll learn about the latest developments in energy storage solution and explore the trajectory of Scotland energy storage industry, the relationship between the green transition and the socio political development of Scotland, it will be discussed and you will hear about how we can harness the engineering legacy of hydro and the power of the Glenn’s very exciting. Thank you.


So, when you’re reading that out, I seem to have a lot to cover. And I’m looking enviously at your with fans as well, it’s quite warm in here. So thank you very much for coming along. And what I’m going to chat to you about tonight is Scotland’s potential place in green transition with a particular focus on energy storage and just quite how important that is to us a society and the potential benefits for Scotland and the wider UK setting. So I mean, I don’t have to tell a a curious and enlightened audience at the RSE that the climate change is is is with us. Climate heating is with us and in July this year, according to the EU’s climate change body was the hottest July ever in record and probably ever, the global average temperatures 17 degrees, the hottest on record. And we’ve seen extraordinary fires in in temperatures in Japan, Southern Europe, North America, and fires burning and roads and Canada with real detrimental impact on life. The United Nations General Secretary said in July of this year that climate change was was out of control. The heating is changing the ocean currents and leading to unprecedented weather patterns that are having a huge detrimental impact on us all. So the Scottish government went to consultation earlier this year. With its roadmap to secure Scotland’s as fast as possible transition away from fossil fuels the draft energy and just transition plan sets out the vision for Scotland’s energy future. And this is really looking at the legal requirement to get his net zero in Scotland by 2045 includes a just transition plan focused on growing Scotland’s highly skilled energy workforce increased jobs in the energy sector in the UK. There are three overarching objective to this draft strategy, scale up renewable energy production, secure continued increase continued and To increase the investment in the sector in Scotland, and deliver a fairer and secure energy system and that last tenant has become extremely important given the insecurity that’s apparent in our energy storage system given the war in Ukraine. However, late last year, the Committee on climate change, the chairman of that used to be known as Selman Gummer, stated that Scotland’s climate targets are in danger of becoming meaningless, and that Scotland’s lead in decarbonizing over the rest of the UK was all but lost. So, we had a great start. And the climate change committee we’re seeing that we are somewhat falling falling back. Royal Society in Edinburgh, Edinburgh, in reply to the consultation earlier this summer, noted that there was a gap between reality and ambition, and that detailed roadmaps for the delivery of the Scottish Government’s plans needed to be developed, just in simple terms. It’s a call for more joined up thinking in terms of what Scotland is doing towards the green transition. That’s the That’s how to get out as a fire. So offshore wind is the central to what we’re doing in Scotland, to our plans on decarbonising energy and society. The government has aspirations in the UK in the UK for 50 gigawatts of electricity from offshore wind by 2030. And the Scottish Government has an aspiration of 20 gigawatts. And that’s a combination of offshore and onshore wind development. Now, these are super ambitious plans and leading the world in terms of their ambition. And actually, if you look at the first three months of 2023, the majority of electricity generated in the UK was from offshore wind, so we’re on the right trajectory. But by 2050, we anticipated that we’ll need twice as much electricity as we we regenerate. Now, as we move to more electrified way of living, but wind can be intermittent, it doesn’t blow all the time. In the present, this shortfall when the wind stops is is generated by switching and bringing online Gas, gas fired power stations. So in the future, we were going to have to rely more and more on stored energy, or current capacity to store renewable and renewable source energy is less than 1% of what’s required, or overall capacity to store energy is really quite abysmal. And then you can see what happened with the war in Ukraine and the Accelerated Cost of gas. That’s all to do with a lack of storage. That’s the fossil fuel storage, or renewable capacity for storage is even less. In addition to this, electricity produced by wind is sometimes exceeds what the grid can actually handle. So we might be in the south of England and needing electricity. We have a suffered of electricity generated in our wind farms in Scotland, but the grid cannot get the electricity to the south of England northward, it’s required. So in those times, the energy is curtailed. And what happens then is the wind farm producers are paid to a fee, because they cannot generate cannot generate electricity. And in parallel with that, we switch on gas fired power stations. So not only are we paying curtailment costs but we’re increasing our co2 emissions by firing up gas fired power stations. So to give you an idea of wind generation equivalent of 2% of the electricity, total demand was curtailed in the GB grid in between 2020 and 2021. And 88% of that came from Scottish wind farms. The cost of that, in 2010, was 170 million pounds a year 21. That was 1.3 billion in curtailment costs that we are all paying and electricity bills, because we can’t move the electricity around the grid. Some estimates put the potential bill up at 2.5 billion and curtailment costs. You can see that with with the limitations on the grid, this curtailed energy cost and just the fact that we’re losing valuable energy, the increased electrification of our societies we move forward to 2045 and 2050. And the potential to make large amounts of renewable energy from offshore wind, the need for storage is absolutely paramount, and we need to do it quickly. Energy storage systems solve this problem by storing surplus energy and making available at later times when we need it. Electricity can be taken from stored energy and fed back into the grid. And as we scale up offshore wind power production, we need to scale up our ability to store the energy that we create. So the question is Can Scotland become a storage superpower? There are many technologies at play in this area. And I’m just going to concentrate on a couple that that our business is involved in, I’m not going to cover the whole gamut here. So the time is right to tap into hydrogens potential to play a key role in energy storage. This technology is emerging as one of the leading options for storing energy from from renewables. The main issue for me in this regard is that we are quite quickly falling behind our neighbours, particularly compared to both Denmark and Germany. So green hydrogen is made by electrolyzing. Water splitting the water molecule into oxygen, and hydrogen, and critically using renewable energy. So that’s green hydrogen, as opposed to to Blue hydrogen, which is derived from methane, with associated carbon capture, and you’ll hear much talk in the UK about low carbon, hydrogen, that is hydrogen and green hydrogen and blue hybrid blue hydrogen. But blue hydrogen is not a pure renewable source. So hydrogen production aspirations in Scotland published by the government are to five gigawatts capacity by 2035. That’s a substantial amount, increasing to 25 gigawatts by 2045. And this is not just green, it’s green and blue. So when you hear these numbers, remember to challenge them. And the aspirations of Scottish Government is to become a net export exporter of law of green hydrogen, actually the the electrolyzed hydrogen, so Scotland is in a great position to develop and exploit the potential for green hygiene we’ve got plentiful wind opportunities, we’ve got plentiful fresh water because the lots of countries where they’re talking about green hydrogen, North Africa, etc. They are limited by the availability of fresh water we’re we’re over endowed with the stuff. The RSE’s position on, on the consultation with the Scottish Government was that the government’s both governments should focus on green hydrogen, except that blue hydrogen, in terms of we’ve got a lot of natural gas should be considered as a bridge to a green hydrogen future. And that’s really given us time to get the electrolysis scaled up to the size that we would want it.


So, green hydrogen has a role in mitigating the curtailment costs talked about, but its real benefit is much wider. In fact, it featured a number of the main initiatives that come out of Cop 26 in Glasgow, green hydrogen based fuels such as ammonia, green, ammonia, green methanol and green ethanol, store renewable energy and allow us to use that energy at a later point in time, it can be transported over long distances from regions of abundant energy like Scotland, to  energy hungry areas, perhaps 1000s of kilometres away so it’s a very versatile fuel, the potential interconnectivity of a hydrogen economy is shown on this, this cartoon with renewable energy source from from wind connected to various off takers through electrolysis into into society. The process of reaching a hydrogen economy will be achieved to a large part by a by a process called sector coupling. And this the sector coupling attaches that attracts the energy producers to energy users in terms of hubs, and that is using hydrogen locally. In the fact that these sectors are coupled via green hydrogen and green fuels. And by coupling these different sectors of the economy, we have the opportunity to start looking at decarbonizing hard to bait areas in society, and that is things like shipping, heating, heavy transportation as an example of just the rate of change in this space, and the investment that is now being poured into it, just what has been achieved and just maybe how far Scotland is behind the Port of Esbjerg in Denmark as its largest port, annual cargo 4.3 million tonnes 6000 ships so it’s a substantial, substantial port. There was a meeting there with the President of the European Commission, Chancellor of Germany, prime ministers of Belgium, Denmark, Holland, they all signed a debt joint declaration to look collectively at what energy could could be produced from wind in around via coastlines and feed it through the Port of Esbjerg and focus that as as a hub. So the pledge to expand the renewable energy, thereby some tenfold in terms of offshore wind. And what has just been announced, for example, is that Esbjerg is receiving a 1 billion euro investment on a one gigawatt hydrogen green hydrogen facility. And that’s money coming from Switzerland to be invested in Denmark, specifically to get one gigawatt. So that’s 20%, of Scotland’s target by 2030. So we’re fortunate as COVID that we’re helping an early generation of this huge, what’s the word the world’s biggest green hydrogen plant. I’m very pleased that the the energy minister for Scotland is going over to Esbjerg next week, and a fact finding mission, and I suspect that she will have a lot of facts to find out, there’s clearly a deal of catching up to do between us and them. But remember, we have huge amount of potential in terms of our renewable energy sources. So it’s a matter of looking at other countries and seeing that’s where we need to be. Let’s let’s get on with it. Another fascinating areas is the sector coupling is is ships. So in Denmark, again, there’s the setup, private, public private partnerships, looking at 14 areas of the economy, and the CEOs of major industries and government, policymakers. And this covered areas such as aviation, the construction, sector, defence, energy, etc. And the idea was to come up with joint policy approach to each one of the sectors of the Danish economy and come up with real roadmaps to the decarbonisation of the economy. So policies directly related to the ambitions and the achievement that what could be achieved by by industry. So Maersk, for example, as a logistics company will have seen the containers with Maersk written on the side. So they’re about to start receiving a fleet of ships that are methanol empowered, so they can run on green methanol. So meta mask is an interesting organisation, its fuel bill, the amount of fuel that uses in one year, it uses one day of the entire global production of oil. So they are very, very keen to drive down their carbon footprint. We met the CEO recently and he’s completely ex CEO and a completely focused on this on this journey. 25% reduction by 2030. And then on to carbon neutrality by I think it’s 2040 2050. The interesting bit and the bravery in this is they don’t have the fuel for the chips they’ve ordered. So they have to think it’s 12 or 14 chips. They don’t have the fuel for them, but they are generating the market. So they’re saying I’ve got to ship 14 ships wherever you come and fill them with green methanol, and we’ll, we’ll buy the methanol. So the amount announced just recently that they have secured enough green methanol for a maiden voyage of one of the first ship and that is from Korea to Copenhagen in the coming coming months. So that is, you know, they’re generating an industry to support their decarbonisation journey by sector coupling and driving that down. Another area closer to home is a project that’s very close to my heart is lower Thames crossing it’s in. In the Thames, it’s new highway construction, civil and civil engineering sector is very hard to abate to try and get the carbon out. The energy storage can help in this. So LTC is a brand new road. Let’s hope to connect Essex and Kent underneath the Thames Estuary hoped to be completed by 2029. And it will be the UK’s longest road tunnels, the third largest tunnel boring machines in the world, the largest we’ve ever had in the UK, 2.6 miles of tunnel, 14 miles of road 50 bridges, etc. So lots of concrete, lots of digging lots of carbon. But what national highways have done here is quite is quite unique. They have, we bench like we benchmark the amount of carbon that was going to be produced from this project. And they are actively going through the procurement process now and they will incentivize the contracting entities who come to build it with with real money to drive the carbon down. So they are creating a market now as we speak in terms of greenfield development along the Thames Estuary, to create the market to decarbonize this piece of infrastructure. Now, this is a real pathfinder project within the UK and I certainly think that you’re in Scotland. We should be looking at this sort of approach to decarbonize our infrastructure, some real lessons to be learned. The draft strategy acknowledges, sort of tips its hat to the potential for hydroelectric pumped storage, long term pumped storage to play a significantly greater role in our transit transition, providing flexible security and resilience to our energy. So the energy system systems, and it’s a very efficient system. And it’s proven. So how does pumped storage works? Well, there’s two bodies of water and in times of low, energy demand. So if a surplus of energy or energy prices are low, you pump water up to an upper reservoir. And in times of require when we need energy. The water goes through turbines creates hydro electricity, and is fed back into the grid. So in fact, it’s a large battery. So it’s a highly efficient way of storing, storing electricity. So there are two schemes in Scotland progressing at real peace. There’s Scottish and southern energies Coire Glas pumped storage hydro project, which is set to double the UK storage capacity when it opens. And it’s progressing well through through its development. This also, you’re all probably aware of the Cruachan power station on the West Coast. Well, Drax, the owner of Cruachan is moving at pace with Cruachan two, which is another pump storage scheme in beside Cruachan one now, so there’s a big movement for pump storage in Scotland. This is tempered policymakers. And as this is this is a UK Government. And it’s been put under pressure, quite rightly so, because the people who want to release this investment and spend on these schemes, they’re not through the final investment decision yet. And it’s all about the price that they can charge for storing electricity. So they’re looking for a cap and a floor ceiling and a floor price on the energy that they can can store for us and for society. And I know the First Minister has written to Prime Minister to urge him to create and come out with with what these values are.


So Scotland has a very long history in hydroelectric. As you drive around the country, you will see you cannot fail to see the dramatic infrastructure that sneaks around our Glen’s the power stations and the dams. The starting point for this development was after the First World War, which we won, but it was almost a Pyrrhic victory because UK or Britain was in such a desperate state that took a huge toll on the country. Lloyd George’s government recognised that Britain’s electricity system was backward and lag way behind the America, US and Germany with the production of electricity per head far exceeded that of of Britain. The government then recognised that the transformation required to improve the economy to improve jobs and the life of our countrymen really needed to increase electricity production. So engineering and the scientific adjustment had to be made and made quickly and it was essential for survival. This led to fairly short order to the development of the national grid. And by the time the Second World War came along, we had an operable National Grid, and that became a vital part of the defence in World War Two. As we trundled through World War 2 In 1942, Churchill set up a council of state of Council of State for Scotland, comprising the living Secretaries of State for Scotland, and charged them with considering the future of Scotland and rebuilding Scotland after the war, and he said he would look favourably if any unanimous recommendation was made from these Secretaries of State. In very short order, the committee established a subcommittee to look at the potential for hydroelectric development in Scotland, particularly in the north, and they reported back very favourably. And in 1943, the hydroelectric development Scotland Act led to the establishment of the north of Scotland hydro electricity board, and that was the precursor to SSE today. That was formed in August 1943. So they’re celebrating 80 years of the hydro board last month. And if you go to the national story telling Institute in the centre, thank you so much. In in Edinburgh, there’s a wonderful display that’s opened today all about the original paintings, I mean, so it’s well worth going to the scale of the investment SS ssese fleet of stuff built in just shortly after World War 2 – 78 power stations 8,700 kilometres squared of catchment thats 11% of Scotland feeds into hydro and 11 150 megawatts of capacity. But the board so the board and the way it was was established, was to generate distributed and supply electricity in the north of Scotland. But the underlying motivation was to improve the quality of life of our citizens in Scotland. Tom Johnson, the chairman of the board in 1946, said Highland depopulation did not stop at the clearances in the first 30 years of the present century. In the 250 parishes covered by the operations of the board, there was a decrease in the population of no less than 30% Unless drastic steps are taken to market our resources etc. I cannot see the chance of any restoration in the depopulation, unless we do that the future is bleak indeed. So big investment for for social economic benefit. So Hansard, the 1952, the this sought to increase the spend the borrowing power of the hydro board, and reading Hansard was a real insight into what the local MPs in the highlands thought of that early period of development. In a debate in 1952, the MPs recounted that experience of the development of hydro, and the provision of electricity had transformed farming, increased the quantity and quality of food available, created hundreds of jobs during construction, and skilled longer term jobs. The lives of women in particular, were transformed beyond recognition. And of course, the hydro board created a lot of roads created access as well. It’s not just electricity, the reference communities and young people’s thing, going as far as to talk about cinema in the highlands for the first time. So this investment was transformational. So we’re going to take that theme a bit forward and talk about the scale of what’s what’s to come in Scotland. So delivery of one pump Scott pump storage scheme in Scotland, when it comes will take five to seven years will be labour intensive drags estimate through can to will create 900 jobs during the construction and through Coire Glas is even bigger, and they will run concurrently. So as 900 crew can probably more at Coire Glas. These create skilled jobs during construction, but there’s the legacy both in the supply chain and locally as the operation of these hydro schemes. But there’s not just two, there’s six potential pump storage schemes coming in Scotland, all in flight at the moment, the two I mentioned are the ones that are closest to fruition. So you can imagine the impact of six such pumped storage schemes in Scotland. And if I go back to my discussion on hydrogen, the potential for jobs in the green hydrogen area in Scotland, lots of those skills are linked to the our skills in the Aberdeen and the coastline there in terms of oil and gas. So saving those jobs creating new joInvergarrybs coupled with with pumped storage development, the potential impact is is significant indeed, in fact that I would go as far as to say truly transformational. So, bit of detail. This is Coire Glas be the first large scale pump story scheme built in the UK for more than 40 years, is located in the hills on the north side of the Great Glen near Invergarry is photos taken from the top of for the hillwalkers amongst you at 937 metres, it’s one of the lock locking minerals. And it is under the surface of this mountain, the power station will be constructed. Why this site? Well, two large bodies of water, there’s Loch Lochy. That’s in Loch Ness . I’ll show you Loch Lochy in a minute. Big, huge volume of water and the ability to create the reservoir high on the hill and not a very long plan distance between the new reservoir and lLoch Lochy. So this is a cutaway of the hill, the mountain rather to run you through some of the significant parts of it. There’ll be a dam up here, the dam will be 90 metres high. So twice the height of the Scott monument at the bottom of the road. Water will pass through here through head rased tunnel down a vertical pressure shaft with through the power station here and make its way around this tail race to spill into Loch Lochy. That’s in generation mode. And when reverse when you’re pumping water to get up there that comes in from the intake structure through reverse turbines reversible pumps up here and back up to fill this loch. The other bits and pieces of tunnel are there’s a access emergency access tunnel, there’s ventilation tunnels as a ventilation shaft here, that’s an extension that’s a sort of sub shaft. So, the scale of the underground development is monumental to give you an idea, from from there to there is a vertical head drop of 500 metres, the height of that shaft there is akin to the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai, the pointy tower in Dubai. So, the scale of the underground development is eye watering so, two kilometres of vertical shaft 67 Underground openings, all tied up will be 18 kilometres in length 4.6 million tonnes of rock will be excavated. So, truly gigantic undertaking this is a closer look at the power station. Incidentally, these are this is not necessarily exactly what will be built this as a kind of early stage development. This is the bottom of the pressure shaft, as you can see, it’s blue, the water comes, comes down here or up there because through this the power station complex and makes its way out of the headrest. The caverns here are large enough to hold Glasgow cathedral. And these tunnels around the top are for ventilation. And this little Hammerhead blind tunnel here, I’ll tell you a bit more. It’s an exploration that is currently being constructed. So this is this is from from Cruachan. And just to give you an idea of what it looks like inside the power station, this is the turbine Hall, you may have been to Cruachan and it’s a big tourist attraction just to show you the scale of the development that’s coming.


Total we build these things? Well, all of them will be built by a method called drill and blast. This is a high speed railway, but it’s the same technique that we will be used. That’s a drilling jumble presented to the tunnel face, we drill holes in the tunnel fees, charged them with explosives, fired explosives and go through a mining cycle of excavating the material taking that to the surface. And as I said, there’s 67 tunnels to be built in Coire Glas. And all of that waste drop will be used around the site for some in the dam and some other parts of the site. And the the the geology of the tunnel walls will be supported by spread concrete and everything on the wet side where there’s water, there’ll be a concrete lining. So in the cabin construction, the caverns are immense. So we take them out in slices. So we’ll grin at the top and take the top of the cabinet in two or three slices, small tunnels to form the cabin. And then we work down the sides of the hole of the cabin till we create the full opening. So it’s a very sequential process. But you know, we just go in everyday and do the same thing and just get faster and faster and faster at it. So the skills and techniques for the development of these tunnels is here in Scotland. We you we have the talent we have the people and resources to to work on these tunnel projects. So and this is what it will look like when it’s complete. We’ve got a dam at the top when it’s tucked away. So it can’t be seen from from Loch Lochy, which is down here. In the side. We’ve got the intake structure at the bottom. So the difference between pumped storage and conventional hydro is we’ve got two bodies of water, we don’t have to dam rivers. So in, in essence, it’s a much more lower environmental footprint than conventional conventional hydro. So a quick look at Cruachan. So this is Cruachan, an existing dam, if any of your hillwalkers you have walked up to Ben Cruachan, and so that’s the way it was opened in 1965. That’s the existing station. There. So and that’s the yellow turbines that I showed you. Now, this is Cruachan two, and you can see Cruachan one is about to get an enormous brother or sister here, huge caverns. Interesting. We’ll tap into the same reservoir. And it’s all about getting power quicker in into the grid. So Drax are pressing ahead with the procurement of this. They’re actively out on the hill drilling holes, taking samples and starting to think about how they might procure it. They’ve got 36 consent, so they’ve got the planning permission. They’ve got the grid connection, so they’re good to go. and pushing ahead at a fair pace. So going back to CCoire Glas  the location of Coire Glas is on the Great Glen so the Great Glen fault runs on on land it’s from Fort William up to Inverness and on into the sea. And then it’s no that’s fat thumbs. So this is this is a slice through the Hydras the area of the hydro scheme so Loch Lochy is here and there’s a fault and the fault rock the rock in the fault zone is quite highly tech nice so it’s been broken up just by the forces that are active as this huge crustal plate moves has moved in the past it’s not active anymore. And the host up here you can see the top reservoir and lLoch Lochy here these rocks are Samite rocks so they used to be metamorphic sand stones with some siltstones etc they’ve been highly techtonised and a squeezed and and het up. So they are quite a dense, hard durable strong rock formation highly folded and that the what we have to do is build the hydro scheme in here. So we need to characterise that rock we need to understand all the nuances within the rock or at least interpret those. So that we can the hydro scheme can be constructed in a in a safe in a safe manner. So SSE have awarded two contracts that are currently in play. And this is an aerial photograph just to show you that the scale of what’s going on. That are Excuse me. No surprises now. So there’s a reservoir, there’s Loch Lochy Loch, Gary, Invergarry Lagen. So you can see that there is a large allowes track of land, the hydro scheme, it will be in this area here. So there’s two contracts. One is with compounds here and here. This is for an exploratory add a tunnel that has been built into the mountain here. And the reason we’re building a tunnel now is to really have a look at the Rock conditions in the area that we’re going to be building the tunnel. The second is up here. And this is a site investigation contract where we’re drilling holes and taking cores out to study the rock and get a better understanding of the whole the whole picture because we’ve got to piece all the knowledge together before we go into or the contractor is going to design and construction. You can see some heli there’s a couple of Heli port landings there. And we’ve got neighbours along the road here. And because it’s such a big construction site, there’s a lot of interaction with with a SSEs neighbours there’s a lot of caretaking and interaction with with with the neighbours. So it’s not an easy place to work. The sun, the weather is not always like this. This is right on top of the hill on the shoulder of the of the mineral and the site of a borehole. Everything on the Hill has to be taken in by helicopter because it’s such a remote place. So a huge logistical challenge. And that’s not just materials, it’s personnel as well taken up on onto the hillside. And the weather is not always like that I’m told. So this is a this is a drilling rig on this near the top of the Monroe and it’s targeted at drilling a borehole down into where that complex cavern arrangement was that borehole was finished last week. And it reached a depth of five and a half 550 metres, so just over half a kilometre. And what we do then is take out rock cores. And so this is annoying. So we take out rock continues rock cores from this board holders, half a kilometre of of core. And we look at the cores are described in very great detail not just looking at the Rock tape, but they’re looking at the fractures in the rock and the orientation of these fractures. We’re looking at the borehole wall because we’ve got five or half a kilometre of cylindrical hole in the ground. We do test down these holes to look at the fracture frequency. We’re looking at the stiffness of the rock in terms of its mechanical properties. And all of this is fed into a process so that we can do two things. One is that the the power station can be designed safely, that the rock support is fit for fit for purpose. And the other is that we can manage risk during the contract because as you adventure as you imagine, starting to Maine deep under a mountain if don’t know anything about that, placing contracts to go and build these, these huge caverns introduces a lot of risk. So the more information we know about the rock mass conditions at depth, the better we are able to design and mitigate risks during construction. So a huge effort goes into, into into the boreholes, and lots of the samples are taken away and done, we do a lot of laboratory testing on them looking at the mechanical properties, so we’re treating the rock as a, as an engineering material. And that’s really what all this investigation is about. Not only were doing drilling at the surface at the, at the top of the mountain, and that’s in the background there, but all of the low level surface, outtakes and intakes all of that we have to characterise the ground. So there’s a huge investigation underway just to help us understand what the geology is. And at the end, we’re not really interested in the rock type, whether it’s a senator of granite or whatever, what we’re interested in is the mechanical properties of the rock as an engineering material. So this is the same cross section more than engineering terms, and the different colours. They’re all Semitic rocks, apart from this, which is the the impact of the Great Glen, but we’re looking at sectioning up the whole of the mountain and seeing that the different Geomechanical properties in different parts of the of the underground space in which the power station will be constructed, align itself with different types of support or construction methodologies. So that’s the process that’s going on at present.


And a big part of this and quite an exceptional piece, I have to say in a brave piece and big investment from from SSE was to actually start to build a tunnel down into where we will be excavating these large cabins. So this is the site on the shores of Loch Lochy you can see I’m trying to live without flicking this thing on. So big site establishment clearance in the forest, and the tunnel portal there with the machinery cleared all the the forest and excavated a portal area to to start commencing tunnelling. Now as tunnels are fairly superstitious lot so the patron saint of tunnelling is Santa Barbara St. Barbara. So at the start of any tunnelling escapade, there’s a the blessing of blessing by a priest, Santa Barbara there. And there’s a big blessing ceremony before everyone piles in underground. Because in reality, it’s a rather it’s not as dangerous as it used to be. But it’s a it’s a historical aspect that we keep going within tunnelling. So you’re going to tunnels, your soul, see a little Santa Barbara, in the sidewall of the tunnel during construction. So this is the portal that of the tunnel that is being constructed at the moment. So this morning, the tunnel length was 347.7 metres long, as we sit here to know they’re preparing for another blast tonight, which will take it another four metres length, so it’ll be four metres long, by longer by tomorrow morning. So it’s a huge investment and the data that we collect, while we’re going down, this tunnel is fed into the overall interpretation of the underground space. So we’re looking at collecting geo mechanical information, geological information, that’s all fed back into a database and interpretation that feeds through to design through to construction and through to the contractor. The money saved the contract administration, when when the power station is built. And that’s what it looks like. So, ventilation, and services, air and water pinned to the side, spread concrete and the things sticking out of the split concrete are rock bolts to hold this this open. I have to say that a I can’t think of another project, another hydro project where the owner has spent quite a this amount of money in terms of investigating investigating the ground to really feed back into that process that I described. So this is this happy bunch are some of them are in the audience of some of the engineers and geologists that are currently working on the project, a diverse bunch, smiley bunch. So they are actively overseeing the construction of the tunnel. They’re looking at all the cores collecting all the information, and they’re part of this process. So


So I think, do we have the opportunity to become an energy superstore superpower? And I think undoubtedly the answer is yes, we’ve got the people you saw them there. In terms of natural resources, we are over endowed with the ability to create electricity from onshore and offshore, particularly offshore. Scott wind is looking at 17 sites that are bound to come on stream. And the Scottish Government and the UK Government have ambitious plans with that. It’s pointless making all that wind unless we do that wind energy unless we seriously do something about it. And not, we all paying for it not to be generated. So there needs to be storage, there needs to be a big focus on renewable energy storage. Taken in, in the round with storage, and the green transition, and the sector coupling that I’ve been talking about. This, quite simply, is the next industrial revolution. We need policymakers to focus on setting a framework to facilitate the investment in this, because the potential for Scotland, and for the UK is quite remarkable. I’ve highlighted that our near neighbours are actually somewhat in front of us, but they’re not. We can see them, they’re not that far in front. The socio economic benefits of the scale of investment have been done and have been seen before I’ve highlighted the impact and the highlands with the investment from the hydro after the First World War with the onset of the the the hydro board. So I think what we’re looking at here, when we couple the unique position, Scotland does end with pump storage, because we are in a unique position with that Norway’s got a lot of hydro electricity, but very, very little pump storage. So we are leading in terms of pump storage. And we can see that there are schemes coming on stream. So taken in the round, there’s an enormous potential for Scotland to become a energy of renewable energy superstore. And it really is a requirement for sector coupling, we need policymakers to help the big investment that people are ready to make in Scotland, because it could and will be transformational for Scotland. And I think particularly for the Highlands and Islands, I think the Highlands and Islands. And it was Douglas Fraser, the BBC journalist wrote over the weekend, that he suspected that the Highlands and Islands did not quite understand what was coming down the tracks. And I think that’s the scale of the potential that we have. From all the stuff I’ve I’ve been talking. So we need to act, we need to act now before we slip further behind. Thank you.


Well, thank you very much. That was fascinating. And I really liked the two of the sites you took us on that was very nice that like we were there, I think to kick us off, because we’ve got a little bit less time for discussion, then planned. But to kick us off, I will ask you a question. And then we’ll see if we can take questions in in the audience. So can we do this at a pace fast enough to get ahead of, of the climate change of impacts of climate change? Is there things that we could do further?


I think it depends, how pessimistic you are about climate change. And it looks desperate to me. But in terms of the engineering and be able to produce the electricity, yes, we can move at pace and create to this as a willingness to do it. We’ve got the skills. So there’s no doubt in my mind that we can we can really push forward on the sort of green transition from an engineering and a science perspective.


Is there another technology or thing that could kind of take over or be more beneficial than


I think? I think because we’re kind of on a literally a burning platform. My personal view is that we should rely on technology that we know will work. You know, hydrogen is still somewhat in its infancy, but you see Denmark and the project we’re on. So one gigawatt plant, and they’re spending a billion dollars on it. So it’s kind of almost there. But pump storage is 80% efficient, and it’s it’s doable. We know it works.


Last one for me, as a university as a university professor that teaches civil engineering you said, you know, do we have enough of these diverse minds? People in the pipeline to, to, to help resolve this part of this.


I honestly think the scale of what’s coming. We don’t have enough people. That’s not just engineers and geologists, it’s just people to help the construction of these things. And we need to be investing more in, in apprenticeships and all sorts across the whole green transition. Because the scale of it, I think, is industrial revolution scale, but quite quick one. So it’s there to be grabbed


during much as we go any. So we have a roving mic, you want to,


Thank you very much. Thank you, Professor Sloan that was absolutely fascinating and rather uplifting. So that was nice. You talked about policymakers needing to create conditions for investment? Could you say a little bit more about what those conditions are? And whether it’s just investment or is it you also mentioned things like apprenticeships and having the right labour conditions. So


I think that’s an easy one, which is the cap and floor on the cost of the value of storage. And that allows the big players to actually decide it’s easier to decide and in boardrooms, to push ahead with the scale of the investments we’re talking. So that’s an easy one. If you look at, again, this is a personal opinion, if you look at hydrogen policy, when policy, they’re all kind of siloed. And there’s a bit of cross referencing between the two, and as a kind of aspiration to do everything, because, you know, so I would recommend that you focus on certain things. And we look and focusing on sector coupling, is I think, the story from Denmark with these 14, public private partnerships, focusing specifically on what industry can do and what policymakers can do. In parlour with industry, that coupling really seems to work. So there’s the aspect port comes out of that sort of thinking. So I think it’s not just about policy. It’s about integrating policy and, and the doers and industry.


Andy, wonderful presentation. Thank you. I’m a mechanical engineer, Tom Morris, my name? This isn’t a political question. But if you look back at things like Crossrail, Channel Tunnel, high speed rail, now the Forth road bridge went well, recently, but the ferries are struggling, how do we get the contract strategy for delivery of these mega projects better.


As someone who spends an awful lot of time on high speed two, very quickly because I could talk about this all day, the the biggest difference is making sure that when you go to contract, there is a clear understanding and maturity in the design. So before you award a contract, it’s like doing your house extension, you just give me a house extension, you’ll pay whatever. But if you’ve got really detailed plans for your house extension, you’ll get a better-defined price. And there’s no difference between high speed railway and your house extension in that regard to the level of detail design, or the knowledge of design, identifying risks and mitigating risks early point in the contract is your better chance of how at securing a cost that’s within sight of what you thought it would be


over the other thing while you wait for the mic


so thank you professor for the presentation. I really enjoyed it. Thank you very much. So I worked in the climate change industry and I used to negotiate Paris Agreement myself. Hydrogen it has indirect impact on climate change. So when you burn hydrogen is generate also indirectly nitric oxide, lead cause of acid rain. And also hydrogen is very corrosive about the constructions here, if there is leaks, and also we have in this world, a threshold of hydrogen being increased, it will react with carbon and cause methane gas, which is global warming potential. So do we have policies now in Scotland or whole Europe that we try to mitigate these problems or we can have another climate change in future with hydrogen


features and policy? I suspect that we’re so far off in terms of how much hydrogen we’re producing or not at that point.


Go ahead, you know, yeah,


we need to see you.


At the back of the room, maybe


I’m just glad I don’t have to use that clicker.


Thanks for your presentation. You mentioned like the being on a burning planet and risk mitigation. Is there any mitigation for drought in the hHighlands of Scotland going forward for pumped hydro, given the recent recent light water scarcity in the highlands this summer?


is a real point, you know that the potential impact on our standing bodies of water through through through drought. I think we’re have benefit here that the standing bodies of water, which were plugging the hydrogen into, their massive, so we need to take that into consideration, the design of these things that there will be potentially fluctuations in the past. But you know, there are there are big bodies of water that we’re plugging into.


Yeah. Thank you for a very interesting talk. You mentioned early on, I think that the the amount of energy storage that we have in Scotland at present is something like I think you said about 1% of what we’re going to need. Now with the developments that you’ve been describing, that’s going to go up to two or 3% of it. But where is the rest of the storage going to come from?


There’s something we need to we need to keep working at. So Coire Glas will double in the UK at the moment, we’ve got the 24 gigawatt hours of storage Coire Gals will add another 30 on to that. The sixth if all six come online will be 120 gigawatt hours. It all depends on the trajectory trajectory of electrification in the end of society, and just how much how much we need. So it’s, I think it’s a it’s a difficult How much do we actually need? Is is, I’m not sure, but a lot more than there is now, that’s the point. 1% or 1%? Less than 1%? That’s a UK number, not just a Scottish Scotland number. Yes,


Can we have any involvement in the development of ways to store hydrogen itself potentially in geological storage facilities?


No, we haven’t. We’re not involved in in hydrogen, hydrogen storage, geological hydrogen storage. We’re involved another geothermal and these sorts of things, but not not hydrogen storage. But it’s an interesting area.


So I’m told I can take one more question.


Yeah, if I could tempt you into this political arena? We’re looking at some notes, I can see the great benefits for Scotland. But in global terms, are we talking about to coin a phrase urinating in the ocean?  If China and India not not performing. And also in Scottish terms and political will, which he did refer to it, is there an element that Westminster will be reluctant to invest in massive capital schemes in Scotland with the prospect of Scottish independence.


So the money for these hydro schemes is not in no way related to the it’s not the not funded by government, funded by


organisations who go and get money in the open open market. What Westminster Government they ask of the Westminster Government, from First Minister, and from the power companies here is about setting policy on the value of the storage or the wind farms, you see, government’s facilitate those but they don’t actually spend much money themselves in investments all private, private money in terms of India and China? Well, it’s a bit sort of off beam from from the top. But I don’t think it’s I don’t think it’s a correct argument to see what other people are behaving badly, we should do nothing, is what I would say. So I think we should strive ourselves to to decarbonize and store our electricity and make as much clean electricity as we can. And if they don’t like it, then there’s nothing we can do about that. But we could lead by example. And I think that’s what we need to do. Yeah. Yes.


We’ve got a question online.


Thank you. It was what is the primary barrier to further storage schemes being developed in Scotland.


In terms of further pumped hydro schemes, I think, you know, this six in various stages of development to inflate who knows what will happen if if policies are late and we get this cabin floor? We might see, I wouldn’t say floodgates, but you know, I mean, more and more of these schemes coming online. So, for example, in Norway, they’re looking at repurposing existing hydro electric projects to convert them into pumped storage. And who knows that may happen in Scotland as well. So that I think we’re at the cusp of potentially more and more of these schemes, How many? I wouldn’t know. And I think in terms of green hydrogen, it’s all depends on the technology and upscaling that but it also depends on making sure that we actually been build the offshore wind now there is a slight existential threat to offshore wind at the moment. I don’t know if you read in newspapers or boats start StarCraft the Swedish giant pulling out of an investment in of Norwich, they walked away and left turned in 78 million of investment because the returns that they see now given the inflation etc. That’s going on that it wasn’t viable to develop that off shore wind elstead which is a Danish giant saw its share price tumble because of similar pressures. I don’t know whether I’ve walked away or not but similar pressures let’s call them in developing offshore winds around the United States of America. So there is pressure in wind development that again that is that is an ask from the giants to have policy around how much they can sell it justify. So that is there are big moving parts but it’s quite a young industry source it’ll be fine


On those words and in the interest of time, can I ask you to thank Andy again for a fascinating talk this evening.


Thank you


So Curious runs up until the 17th of September. So please check the other events on the website You will also receive an email for evaluation on how the evening went. I’d like to apologise for the online audience for not picking up a question earlier. I’m sorry. And I would like finally to thank you for attending tonight, both in person and on the other side of the computer. So thank you very much.