The Loch Ness Monster of Energy Storage

The UK had splendid weather in April. With high pressure over the North Sea we had 8 days of splendid weather at the beginning of the month (2nd to 9th of April) and 9 days of splendid sunshine during the second half (15th to 24th April) (Figure 1). This of course left our massive fleet of wind power stations idling. 12 GW of installed capacity produced less than 1 GW for much of that time and less than 0.2GW for some of the time. This affords the opportunity to put some numbers on the energy storage requirements to survive lulls such as these.

Our standard unit of currency is going to be the proposed Coire Glas (CG) pumped hydro storage scheme [1] which has capacity to store 30 GWh and to release that energy over a two day period. As described below, the first lull requires about 347 GWh or 12 CGs. The second requires 339 GWh or 11 CGs but there is insuficient surplus wind between the lulls to recharge the magazines (Figure 1). A single Coire Glas is environmentally sensitive. Contemplating storage as a solution to intermittent wind must therefore be an exercise in vanity. Not quite! Enter the Strath Dearn (SD) Pumped Hydro Storage concept [2] beside Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. The SD will be our second unit of storage where 1SD = 227 CGs. With a capacity to store 6800 GWh it could easily have spanned the April 2015 lulls with room to spare. But as always there is more than one catch.

Figure 1 UK electricity demand and wind production as recorded by BM reports and reported by Gridwatch [3]. Demand left hand scale, wind generation right hand scale. The storage required to span lulls is based on a 3 GW target for median wind output. In other words, when over 3 GW is being generated the surplus is used to pump water. Click chart for large version.

Before going on to look at the details of Strath Dearn I want to put some more numbers in place on UK wind, pumped hydro storage and power generation and the construction of Figure 1.

The UK currently has 4 operational pumped storage hydro schemes [4]:

The combined capacity of existing = 26.7 GWh which is just below 1CG.

  • The UK has about 12 GW installed wind capacity [5]. BM only meter about 8 GW hence the wind reported by Gridwatch is grossed up by a factor of  1.46 [5].
  • Peak wind generation (adjusted) in April was just below 9 GW but on many occasions was below 0.2 GW (Figure 1).
  • Peak UK winter demand, 6pm in January or February is over 55 GW. Minimum summer demand at 6am on a Sunday morning in July is less than 22 GW.

The April Wind Lulls

I have estimated the size of the April lulls by assuming an average 25% capacity factor giving 3 GW median wind generation and deducting actual generation during the lulls from that median value and summing across time (Figure 1).

The first lull requires approximately 347 GWh of storage backup, the second around 339 GWh of storage backup. Between the lulls is an opportunity to recharge the magazine with gross surplus of 267 GWh. This however needs to be reduced by 20% to account for the energy efficiency of the system. Hence, the net recharge is reduced to 214 GWh. The total storage required to span both lulls is of the order 472 GWh.

With a capacity of 6800 GWh, Strath Dearn could easily cope with the wind system as it is currently configured. But as discussed below we will see that when scaled to a 100% renewable system it gets too close to call.

The Loch Ness Monster of Energy Storage

The Strath Dearn pumped storage hydro concept is proposed by new energy blogger “Scottish Scientist” [2]. Scottish Scientist is hiding behind anonymity which lowers credibility and given the nature of the concept proposed many may wonder why I am giving this air time. The reasons for doing so are this: 1) the concept illustrates the enormous scale of the storage challenge 2) the blog post appears to contain carefully considered engineering calculations 3) David MacKay showed up in the comments to the post and 4) it illustrates how renewables enthusiasts see no boundaries to the environmental destruction they are prepared to create in pursuit of their ideology.

The proposal is to build a truly gigantic pumped storage hydro scheme in the Monadhliath Mountains, just south of Inverness (population 72,000) (Figure 2). This area in the upper reaches of the River Findhorn is remote, wild and beautiful (Figure 3).

Figure 2 The location of the worlds biggest proposed pumped storage hydro scheme in relation to Loch Ness and Inverness [2].

Figure 3 Strath Dearn, a remote wilderness not worth preserving?

The scheme proposes to pump seawater from a location on the Moray Firth just east of Inverness to an elevation of about 300 m above sea level from where the water will flow south along a canal to the base of dam at an elevation of about 350 m** where it is pumped into a reservoir with maximum surface elevation of 650 m. At one level, this is a standard pumped hydro storage scheme employing the sea as the lower reservoir. The scheme would have two pumping and generating stations, one by the sea and the other at the base of the dam. It is the awesome scale of this proposal that makes it stand out.

** In email correspondence Scottish Scientist explained how the shallow gradient of the terrain may be overcome:

The pumping station does not have to be immediately at the foot of the dam but could be some 100s of metres “down river”.

Also 350 elevation at the foot of the dam is including the fluvial sediment which all must be removed to build the dam on the bedrock. So we don’t know what the surface elevation of the bedrock there is going to be.

But just assume for a minute that 350 elevation had to be coped with at the dam end.

There are other options but simply making the canal 50 metres deeper and 100 metres wider near the dam where the surface elevation is now at 350 metres would do the job.

Do likewise in proportion as the surface elevation varies from 350 to 300 metres

So if the surface elevation is 325 metres then make the canal 25 metres deeper and 50 metres wider at that point.

Not that I am even absolutely committed to 300 metres as the canal’s water surface head. If it works out cheaper to design a canal height of, say, 310 metres meaning that the canal sides need embankments where the surface elevation is now 300 metres then that sort of thing is a possibility too.

One other possibility would be to divide the canal in 2 at some point with powered flow between the canal halves through another turbo-pump station but that’s a complication too far for me to detail at this stage since it is too early to rule out the simpler undivided canal with appropriate building works to cope with the varying surface elevation.

Vital statistics

  • Storage capacity = 6800 GWh
  • Surface area of reservoir = 40 km^2, volume = 4.4 billion m^3 of water.
  • Flow rate through pipes and canal = 51,000 m^3 per second (equivalent to the discharge of the Congo River)
  • Generating capacity between 132 GW and 264 GW (2 to 5 times UK peak demand)
  • Canal 30 km long, 170 m wide (minimum), depth at centre 85 m, flow velocity 10 to 11 ms^-1 (water flowing at this rate can move 10 tonne boulders).
  • Dam crest length = 1860 m, top height 300 m, dam volume 80+ million m^3 (of concrete?)
  • Cost: unknown

Some comparisons

  • Hoover Dam: crest length = 379m; height 221m; dam volume 2.48 million m^3, generating capacity 2.1 GW [6]
  • Three Gorges Dam: crest length = 2335 m; height 181 m; generating capacity 22.5 GW [7]
  • Loch Ness: area = 56.4 km^2; volume = 7.5 billion m^3.

In summary, the area of the Strath Dearn reservoir is comparable to Loch Ness and the volume is about half of Loch Ness. The dam would dwarf the Hoover Dam and is of comparable size to Three Gorges in China. Strath Dearn generating capacity of 132 to 264 GW dwarfs both Hoover and Three Gorges. That is because the reservoir may be emptied and filled regularly, it has a huge head of 650 m and flow is not restricted to the flow of a natural river that has been dammed.


So what is there not to like about this proposal beyond the obliteration of Strath Dearn, the River Findhorn and causing environmental chaos in the Moray Firth? At the outset it is important to note that The Energiewende is being conducted in the name of environmental protection. Its advocates seem to have totally forgotten that the fossil fuel age bought a future for whales and forests.

Catch 1 As described above, storage of the order 472 GWh would be required to span both April lulls for the wind system as it is currently configured with a median output of 3 GW. Scaling this to a 100% wind-pumped-storage system would increase that requirement so that median output from a gigantic wind carpet would be of the order 50 GW. The storage requirement for the 100% renewables system therefore grows to 50/3*472GWh = 7867 GWh. Strath Dearn is not large enough to guarantee supply.

Catch 2 The whole point of The International Energiewende is to get away from centralised power generation and to embrace distributed power. Strath Dearn is a pole away from that goal and would represent the greatest concentration of power generation anywhere in the world with a generating capacity 10 times that of the enormous three gorges dam in China.

Catch 3 follows on from Catch 2. 264 GW of generating capacity needs 264 GW of power lines to bring power into the pumps and to export power from the generators. The tentacles of environmental destruction would spread out across the whole of Scotland from Inverness. The controversial Beauly – Denny line that is nearing completion is rated at 0.4 GW. So we’d need 660 of those.

[Note added 27 May. Beauly – Denny is actually rated at about 2.5 GW, hence the number of power lines is reduced to 106]

Catch 4 lies in currently unquantified concern I would have about seawater ingress into the groundwaters that underlie and spread out from this high land location. The Caledonian Schists of this area are likely to be rather impermeable themselves. But groundwater storage is via fractures and joints and I would anticipate fairly rapid ingress of seawater into the fracture networks that would show up in springs and wells surrounding this locality. Loch Ness may become salty. Nessie would not like it.

Catch 5 lies in tectonic stresses caused by loading and unloading the site with 4.4 billion tonnes of water on a regular basis. Whilst I don’t know for sure, it seems possible that this could cause earth tremors which in turn could raise concern about dam failure.

Concluding Comments

I could probably go on to find another 17 catches but in interest of brevity will leave it at 5. However, Catch 22 may turn out to be that Strath Dearn is the lowest cost per GWh installed capacity of any energy storage scheme on Earth but that it is impossible to fund because of the sheer scale of the aggregate investment involved.

For wind power to work as a mature non-parasitic generating technology requires grid-scale, energy efficient storage and for the time being pumped storage hydro is the only show in town by a long, long way, a situation that I anticipate will persist. In my opinion, monster schemes like Strath Dearn are totally unworkable and head off in the wrong direction.

Scotland has acquired 8GW of wind power whether we like it or not and is likely to acquire a lot more in the years ahead. The Scottish Government has recently held a consultation on how to solve the mess they have created. The assumption has always been that energy storage would be used to store the peaks and release that energy into the troughs of wind generation. Mission impossible?

For the foreseeable future, it will make much more sense to balance wind against gas or coal plants as happens now. The wind energy offsetting the amount of coal and gas we need to burn which is good for UK and European energy security. Grid scale storage will most definitely have an increasing role to play but in the first instance that should target the diurnal demand cycle.


[1] The Coire Glas pumped storage scheme – a massive but puny beast Euan Mearns, Energy Matters.
[2] World’s biggest-ever pumped-storage hydro-scheme, for Scotland? Scottish Scientist
[3] Gridwatch Leo Smith.
[4] Sustainable Energy – without the hot air David MacKay
[5] Untangling UK Wind power production Clive Best.
[6] Hoover Dam Wikipedia.
[7] Three Gorges Dam Wikipedia.

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127 Responses to The Loch Ness Monster of Energy Storage

  1. Leo Smth says:

    Well its nice to see someone else going through the maths and coming to the same conclusions I did.

    Massive pumped storage is simply not on the cards. The very best wind balancing happens where there are a lot of small hydro projects – Norway and sweden, New Zealand etc.

    To be honest, a better scheme would be to take e.g. a sea loch, dam the entrance and pump the seawater OUT of it.

    That puts the generator bang on the coast, and from there HVDC lines could couple it to the grid – underwater.

    However and whatever is done, pumped storage enough to balance wind (let alone seasonally variable solar) is going to be massive – in size, environmental impact and cost.

    Once again, the environmental impact of energy supposed to protect the environment from change, changes the environment its supposed to protect.

    Nuclear simply makes more sense all round 🙁

    • Hi Leo,
      Your suggestion of a

      “better scheme would be to take e.g. a sea loch, dam the entrance and pump the seawater OUT of it.”

      reminded me of the suggested pumping water out of Loch Morar (not a sea loch, but very close to the sea) to a surface elevation below sea level which would be required in the pumped-storage hydro scheme described in March 2013 by

      Energy Storage Solution for the UK: Large Scale Pumped-Storage Site – by Julian Hunt – published on The Energy Collective – the world’s best thinkers on energy and climate.

      I registered with the Energy Collective to comment on Julian’s proposal though Julian did not reply so perhaps he has moved on and forgotten about his concept?

      I also mentioned Julian’s concept in reply to one of David MacKay’s comments on my blog post where he too also identified Loch Morar as a potential site.

      They don’t suggest using the sea as the upper reservoir but rather suggest another nearby loch as the upper reservoir.

      The upper reservoir identified by both David MacKay and Julian hunt which is only identified on Google maps with the text “Allt a’ Choire” (meaning “Stream of the corrie” so not the name of the loch) is named on another map as “Loch Beoraid”.

      Julian Hunt suggests using Loch Morar sufficiently drained so that its lowest level in use would be minus 300 metres below sea level.

      Julian Hunt reckons he can get 1300GWh energy storage capacity with a 300 metre dam for Loch Beoraid and 1800GWh with a 350 metre dam.

      My own modelling indicates that a capacity of 1,400 GWh would be appropriate to serve all of the UK’s needs for energy storage for an essentially renewables-only generation capacity to serve all of the UK’s electricity demand, without nuclear or fossil fuel power stations, except perhaps mothballed for emergency power.

      So a claim of “1,300 GWh” is of interest. As is Julian’s further claim of “1,800 GWh” with a higher dam.

      I can identify some issues and questions now with Julian’s proposal which are mainly to do with the lower reservoir and which also apply to Leo’s concept.

      1) The surface area of the lower reservoir when drained to a depth of -300 metres and therefore the volume which can be lowered to that depth is likely to be small.

      2) There would be a greater difficulty in sealing the lower reservoir from ingress from sea water from factures in the bedrock.

      Sealing water in to an upper reservoir is not too hard because the water pressure forces the sealant into the fractures or forces the liner into the rock where it is well supported.

      But in the lower reservoir, any sea water ingress will be forcing any sealant to pop out of the fractures or liner to peel away from the rock face, which all makes sealing much more difficult.

      This is not an insurmountable problem for tunnels which go under seas or rivers and mining operations below sea level but is a lot easier if the bedrock is impermeable to start with – otherwise pumping out continuously may be the obvious solution but that takes energy, not an issue unless that energy is too high, which it could be in this case but I don’t know.

      I wonder if Julian had worked out a figure for the energy it would take to drain the lower reservoir of the water to the sea which could not be contained in the upper reservoir? The operators would not want to be wasting energy bailing the lower reservoir out of sea water too often.

      So the advantage of such a UK-only sized scheme is it has a smaller demand for land but the disadvantage is that it can’t offer anything much for the North Sea Grid and it doesn’t allow for the time in the dim and distant future where we have electrified transport and heat and the demand for power is a multiple of UK demand now and so the pumped-storage hydro requirement would be multiples of 1400 GWh too.

      Nevertheless there are other options which if others wish to propose in detail and argue for, I am willing to examine positively and constructively.

      I don’t say “It must be Strathdearn or nothing” but obviously I shall continue to support my proposal over others until I see something distinctly better if not necessarily bigger.

      • Leo Smth says:

        The point (in a world ruled by sane energy policy) is finally, a cost benefit one, between the uber low impact of a nuclear power station and the massive impact and cost of solar, wind and pumped storage.

        Only if you are wedded top the emotional narrative of there being only one thing worse than carbon dioxide, and that’s nuclear power (or fracking?) does any of this make any sense at all.

        The problem with the green tinted glasses is the strange admixture of emotionally b(i)ased ideology with purported fact based science – as ‘Scottish scientist’ epitomises.

        You want a cheap reliable power source for Scotland? Coal or nukes. You want a cheap reliable carbon free source? Nukes.

        Patently what is desired is not a cheap carbon free power source. Its an expensive and environmentally damaging one.

        If that’s what Scotland thinks it really wants, the sooner it leaves the Union so we dont have to pay for it, the better.

        I note with dismay that the SNP have got the chair of the energy and climate change committee.

      • Graeme No.3 says:

        Have you costed the fence or other barrier that will prevent the dumping of old cars, stoves etc. in the canal?

        • Hi Graeme,

          No I haven’t even designed such a fence or barrier but it should be at least robust enough to prevent a bin lorry careering through it.

          But even if the canal security wall was built to Berlin wall specifications, its cost would be insignificant compared to the £ billions required to build a canal to hold in excess of 200 million cubic-metres of water.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Yeh, I thought about a sea loch setting. Loch Morar is close – but is a truly stunningly beautiful area. I camped there decades ago and watched otters playing on the sand. I would fight tooth and nail to prevent environmentalists wrecking it. The trouble with a coastal setting is that you loose head. Ideally you need as big a head as possible.

      If you look at recent real proposals for pumped storage – Sloy and Coire Glas, the operators are having to pay very careful attention to maintaining water levels in Lochs Lomond and Lochy respectively. The planners at least still have standards.

      The trouble with much of this is the desire to get away from building a lower reservoir and that is mainly to save cost.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Leo, Scotland already has 7 to 8 GW of wind, 1.5 GW of hydro and 2 GW of nuclear. Has the pro-nuclear stance not been lost for the next couple of decades? Up here at any rate?

      I drove Aberdeen – Bath in March. It was notable that in the Scottish Borders there was a forest of turbines. S of the border – none!

    • PhilH says:

      > Nuclear simply makes more sense all round

      An all-nuclear supply has even larger storage demands, as it can be varied little: not just daily (storing excess night generation for daytime use), and weekly (weekend output for the working week), but, dwarfing what is discussed in the posting, seasonally (summer output for winter). Unless you build enough stations to supply the winter evening peaks directly, and shut them down progressively through to summer, making wastefully little use of many high-capital-cost stations.

      • An all-nuclear supply has even larger storage demands, as it can be varied little

        A common misconception. Nuclear plants can be cycled to follow load – nukes in France do it. It’s just not often done because it’s more economic to run them in baseload mode. And baseload plants don’t need any storage.

        • PhilH says:

          That’s effectively equivalent to having several high-capital-cost, low-fuel-cost stations used only a few hours a day on a few days a year. What does that do to the economics of a largely- or all-nuclear system? There’s surely a stage where it’s cheaper to build some form of storage, or possibly cheaper still to run some low-capital-cost, high-fuel-cost thermal stations to cover the peaks. (See my comment below at May 23, 2015 at 12:48 am)

      • roberto says:


        You’ve got the world upside down,man!

        France generates 77% of its electricity, 410TWh in 2014, while having only a small amount of pumped hydro. Italy, who has no nukes has more pumped hydro than that, as has Spain.

        Get your figure right and then come back todiscuss it, OK?

        France, 2 winters ago, has gone through a prolonged (2 weeks or so) spell of extremely low temperatures… 106 GW peak power demand at 7 pm…what do you think they could have done in early February with, say, photovoltaics????



        • PhilH says:

          France has at least 50% more pumped storage output than the similar-sized UK, and a lot more dispatchable hydro, which can be used to a similar effect (

          Demand minima in summer are about 1/2 of the demand maxima in winter – if France gets only about 3/4 of its electricity from nuclear, that’s effectively a half-way acknowledgment that it’s not cost effective to get it all from nuclear. For the other half, they must be accepting paying a significant cost for the financial inefficiency of not using all the nuclear stations at 100% LF.

  2. Thank you Euan for the honour of discussing my proposal in “Energy Matters”.

    I would like to comment along the lines of our email correspondence.

    Catch 1

    By co-incidence, I too had modelled a system for the UK – a wind power (290 GW) and pumped-storage hydro (1400 GWh) system – using scaled up data from the gridwatch website for April 2015.

    The general method I used is described on my other blog post, linked follows, though the results shown on that post are scaled to consider a Scotland only system.

    The results using the April data for the UK system are shown separately in the following linked-to image.

    Image heading – Renewables-only Electricity Generation. Wind-turbines & pumped-storage hydro. Case-study UK.

    Image explanation – Power-grid modelling time-line. April 2015. Annual maxima – Peak Demand 52.2 GW. Installed Wind 290 GW. Pumped-storage 1400 GWh.

    My scaling factor was calculated from the actual maximum wind power data item from the gridwatch data for 2014 – 6835 MW which I define as the maximum wind power so when modelling a nominal “290 GW” of wind I multiply the gridwatch wind power data by a factor of 290 / 6.835 = 42.42.

    In other words by “290 GW” I mean install enough wind turbines so that the maximum wind power supplied at that time of the year of maximum wind power output would in fact be 290 GW.

    As you can see in the image I modelling 290 GW and 1400 GWh the reservoir doesn’t run dry at all in April 2015.

    I would further note in passing that in reality a mix of intermittent renewables – wind + solar + etc – would generate power more evenly with time, smoothing out the peaks and troughs, which should mean that a smaller energy storage capacity than 1400 GWh would be required for the same peak-demand.

    Unfortunately, gridwatch does not include data for solar so that’s why it wasn’t included in my modelling.

    Catch 2

    Whilst accepting Strathdearn pumped-storage hydro would be a centralized facility, I would dismiss the concept of “democratization of energy” by decentralization of energy storage as unrelated to the realities of how to defend democracy.

    Our lives are controlled by states and it does none of us any good even if we have solar PV panels on our roofs if, for example, the state decides to imprison us under a prison roof for expressing our political viewpoints that the state doesn’t like.

    I can understand why the Germans want to look for every possible belt and braces to secure their democracy against the rise of another Hitler but Elon Musk and his Tesla Powerwall just don’t have the defence to the threat of the possible rise of a fascist police state.

    The decentralization of guns I suggest offers a better defence of democracy – not necessarily as per the USA’s right-to-bear arms but one could at least have community armouries with elected councillors having the keys to them which would more effectively defend against any threat of the rise of a fascist police state than anything we can do with our do-it-yourself electricity supply solutions.

    If the most efficient solution for energy storage is centralized pumped-storage facilities then let’s build them and control them according to democratically arrived at laws.

    Even this 6800 GWh scheme, big as it is, cannot serve all of Europe’s future needs for energy storage so Norway’s PSH and other countries’ PSH will be needed as well so the owners of no one scheme could abuse their power because customers could take their energy trade elsewhere, or the Scottish national governments (the British if Scotland is not independent by then) or the EU could step in to bring the facility under responsible democratic control.

    If the world can trust Scotland and Britain as a place to host nuclear weapons with which to guarantee our own defence and the defence of Western Europe and our NATO partners, then I suggest that the world can trust Scotland and Britain as a place to host a massive pumped-storage hydro scheme and guarantee our own energy supply, Britain’s and Europe’s electricity supply too.

    Catch 3

    High voltage DC power cables are not limited to “0.4 GW” and neither would the cables cause any environmental destruction.

    A few high power cables can discretely – underground or undersea – connect Strathdearn PSH to its customers, dividing into smaller power cables closer to their customers.

    There’s no need for the HVDC cables in Scotland to surface other than at significant pre-existing transmission nodes, where all that is required is the appropriate voltage transformers to connect to the existing grid.

    Catch 4.

    Sealing hydro reservoirs against leaks is not a consideration unique to sea water reservoirs because lost water is lost energy. It is a common reservoir engineering problem with common engineering solutions.

    Just to the south-west of the location of this proposed scheme lies the Glendoe Hydro scheme at an altitude of 630 metres. So “fractures and joints” did not cause leaks which cripple Glendoe and they wouldn’t cripple Strathdearn either.

    You have to consider the risk that a tiny amount of sea water might leak in comparison to the deluge of rain water that the area receives which would dilute the salt to insignificance.

    One common approach for reservoirs is, as with canals, to line them with an impermeable layer. There are any number of websites offering to line your reservoir for you.

    There are some reservoirs that hold pretty noxious slurries from industrial processes and you can be sure that if the lining material can hold those they can hold salt water no problem.

    Which only leaves surface rainwater run off draining into the reservoir and canal and again that’s no problem.

    There is already a salt-water pumped-storage hydro-scheme

    Okinawa Yanbaru Seawater Pumped Storage Power Station

    and you can all read about how they overcame the particular challenges of salt water for yourself.

    Catch 5.

    Reservoir induced seismicity.

    It can happen but it is nothing to panic about if the dam is well made.

    Simply make the dam strong enough to withstand any and all natural earthquakes and any dam-buster’s bomb.

    Scientifically it is workable and the engineering is simply a matter of scale, approach and which contractors to hire. Can it be afforded, though?


    For a scheme this size, I recommend that way to fund it would be by governments and central banks approved additional deficit spending for the purpose – printing new money as required – and that means not only the Scottish & UK government and Bank of England but the governments and central banks of North Sea Electricity grid countries who were supporting the scheme and perhaps the EU & its European Central Bank too.

    If the cost is in proportion to SSE’s quote for Coire Glas, Strathdearn pumped-storage hydro scheme would cost £181 billion.

    For a European economy in recession or with not enough growth, this is just the sort of infrastructure investment, alongside investment in additional renewable generating capacity, that is required.

    The smart way to build this is from the sea-side first – that way if funding runs out before completion, the sea-side pumps, generators, pipes, well head and canal can operate as a simple pumped-storage hydro scheme to serve Scottish needs.

    Leave the upper pumping and generating station and the dam and reservoir work until last.

    The point to note in seeking funding for this scheme is it is not designed to solve Scotland’s energy storage problems only – although it does that in spades – it also solves Britain’s energy storage problems with enough left over to offer an energy storage service for European countries, those near to us – the “North Sea countries” – especially.

    References about the North Sea Grid.

    You might find this news story of interest in the context of the North Sea Electricity Grid wherein one of our Euro MEPs is singing the praises of Norway’s PSH for that but he misses out entirely the prospects for new Scottish PSH. Perhaps the MEP knew the SSE’s plan for Coire Glas at only 30GWh could not help the North Sea Electricity grid? Anyway I commented to offer my plan.

    Thanks again Euan.

    I’m really pleased that you’ve decided to write about my proposal in “Energy Matters”!

    I look forward to reading some more critical comments!

    Scottish Scientist
    Independent Scientific Adviser for Scotland

    • Leo Smth says:

      I love the idea of 240GW of windmills to supply an average demand of 35GW.

      At that sort of capacity factor the cost of wind is about 5 times that of nuclear, with the storage, by my wet finger estimate

      I can fully believe you are scottish. A nation that can vote SNP can surely give birth to such an intellect. You may even be a scientist, but you surely are not an engineer who has to account for cost and contextual impact.

      • It was 290 GW, not “240” of effective wind turbine maximum power but that was the result from modelling the simplest system of only wind turbines and pumped-storage hydro.

        A real system would use a mix of renewable technologies, leading to smoother peaks and troughs of power generation, required a reduced capacity of generators and energy storage.

        But the model is useful because it helps to explain what would be required to get to 100% renewable energy if we were to stick to only wind turbines and don’t diversify our renewable generators.

        It provides a bench mark against which we can compare other more complex systems.

        Without modelling it is difficult to predict how much of each component of a system you need, difficult to estimate a cost.

        Some who are not scientists prefer guess work and wet fingers every time.

  3. Alan Poirier says:

    Scottish Scientist, nice try, but I lost whatever interest I had in your scheme when you started talking about how to finance it. Deficit financing and printing money? Seriously? Seriously?

    • Hi Alan,

      Oh sure. The UK economy would be deep in recession if it were not for Bank of England governors pouring billions of pounds of newly created money into the economy by way of “quantitative easing” (QE).

      QE was started modestly by Mervin King because Osborne was too much of a fiscal conservative to spend and increase the deficit to get growth going.

      Osborne’s face-saving get out which inflated the economy without technically increasing the deficit was to hire Mark Carney who could ease quantity with the best of them.

      Only the European Central Bank catching on to the QE fashion – copied from the UK and US – of getting around road-block fiscal conservative politicians, offers a way to bring the euro-zone out of recession in a hurry.

      So QE creates new money, prints new money, billions of it, in the US it is trillions of dollars, as does deficit spending, seriously, seriously.

      But QE is undirected and it leaves it up to bankers to decide what to do with all this new money – and some of it goes on increasing asset prices, house price bubbles, bankers bonuses and other things that don’t do much for the real economy.

      So deficit spending on needed infrastructure is a much wiser way of spending new money to get the real economy growing.

      So fiscal conservatives are making most of us suffer austerity – FOR ABSOLUTELY NO REASON WHATSOEVER.

      There is massive slack in the economy – unemployment, part time and under employment, low wage employment p right now so the correct thing for a government to do in such circumstances is SPEND, SPEND, SPEND and hopefully spending on useful things.

      The only danger with massive deficit spending to get the economy growing is that the influx of new money can be inflationary – but if inflation gets too high then the government can increase taxes to stop inflation running away.


      • Sam Taylor says:


        You’ve got a few point wrong as regards QE, I’m afraid, but they’re fairly common mistakes.

        QE is not money printing. It is an asset swap program in which the central bank exchanges reserves for financial assets, such as treasury bills. When the central bank performs this operation it effectively ‘unprints’ the treasury bill, which no longer exists in the wider economy, since central banks do not participate in the wider economy and their balance sheets are effectively black holes. As such the net financial wealth of the private sector does not change in value, it only changes in composition. If you go from having a trasury bill orth $100, to having central bank reserves worth $100, you haven’t got richer. This is why QE did not cause any inflation (as many feared), and why it is incorrect to call it money printing. QE is basically an interest rate operation.

        The theory behind QE was that banks didn’t have sufficient reserves to lend out, and that by giving them more reserves lending would increase leading to an increase in aggregate demand. Unfortunately this is based on the incorrect “money multiplier” theory. The reality is that banks lend first, and find reserves later as needed, which is why QE in the US didn’t cause an increase in loans or inflation.

        The only real effects of QE are in terms of portfolio rebalancing and psychological effects on the many market participants who do not correctly understand its operational nature (and eg start predicting hyperinflation).

        • With the QE, the bank goes from holding a treasury bill worth $100 which the bank can’t spend or invest in growing businesses to holding $100 of cash which it can spend or invest in growing businesses.

          The bank has not got richer instantly but has more cash in its vaults and can use its cash to stimulate economic activity – or it may choose not to use all the extra cash on hand to stimulate growth, but may buy another financial asset instead or leave the cash idle for a time or bid up property prices with its cash – and that’s why the theory works to some extent to create growth but not as well as directed deficit spending would create the actual growth which is required, build the infrastructure required, rather than leave our economic future at the whim of bank managers.

          The stated theory QE is something the central bank managers say which must not embarrass their political masters. The stated theory is to save face.

          The true reason for QE is that we have elected very stupid politicians who think running an economy is like running their own personal bank account where one tries to balance one’s books and so some behind the politicians’ backs way had to be found to inflate the economy, no matter how convoluted and obscure compared to simply investing in what the people need.

          Politicians are not economists and the economists they listen to are ones who don’t tell them their life experience has not educated them to run an economy and politicians’ economically illiterate fiscal conservative beliefs are inadequate to the task of government.

          • Sam Taylor says:

            Again, I’m afraid that’s not quite right. The bank doesn’t have cash, it has central bank reserves, which is basically the unit of deposit which is held at the central bank. It requires these reserves to clear payments.

            However, the idea that the bank has more reserves and will thus lend out more money is entirely incorrect, and is indeed backwards. Banks create loans first, and then seek reserves later as needed, they do not lend out their reserves. This was covered recently in a note from the bank of England on the subject of money creation, which you can read here: ( ). As such it is entirely incorrect to say that after the QE transaction the bank has more money with which it could stimulate the economy, since the banks do not require these reserves in order to lend in the first place. In order to lend the bank merely requires sufficient capital to cover capital requirements, and it needs a creditworthy customer to lend to. This is why if you look at data for the US QE did NOT coincide with an increase in the generation of loans, despite a massive increase in the amount of reserves, in contradiction to your assertion that it would. Indeed creation of loans have recently increased in the US, but after the end of QE3 ( )

            The reason we have QE is the central banks are very limited in what they’re actually allowed to do in terms fo interacting with the economy, legally speaking, and buying bonds and other instruments through QE is one of the few tools they have available to them. And actually, what I think the data of the last few years shows, is that monetary policy is very weak, and it might be a good idea that governments considered using fiscal policy a bit more.

            The main problem we have is that many economists do not understand, or even care, about money and banks. Money and banks aren’t even included in most economic models, which is one of the most glaring reasons that so much of the profession missed the financial crisis, because banks and money are central to how modern economies function. Those who did consider money (for example Wynne Godley at the Levy institute) were correctly calling the crisis for years in advance.

          • Sam,

            This conversation is not going anywhere because you want to bang on about “central bank reserves” and I don’t.

            My point was that “QE is intended to boost the amount of money in the economy” (a direct quote from your link) in a such a diplomatic and round about way that it avoids confronting Chancellors of the Exchequer who foolishly have point blank refused to boost the amount of money in the economy with deficit spending on needed investment as they should and would if they were not economically illiterate fiscal conservatives who think balancing the government’s books is “prudent” when in fact it is recklessly irresponsible to deflate the money supply by attempting to balance the government’s budget and forces central banks to come up with a plan to cope with this recklessness.

            QE works around reckless fools like Osborne without him having to lose face and abandon his fiscal conservative views so popular with his fiscal conservative back-bench supporters.

            The QE advanced-theory is simply a smokescreen to hide politicians’ blushes, give them something else to witter on about aimlessly at Mansion House dinners.

        • Hi Sam,

          “The bank doesn’t have cash”

          A bank without cash? My, my, what will they think of next?

          I’m correct. You are the one who is entirely incorrect to say that I am “entirely correct”.

          I’m close enough to being entirely correct and you are close enough to presenting yourself a pretentious fool.

          Your graph is of Loans and Leases in Bank Credit. All (presumably “all” meaning “all American”) Commercial Banks.

          To make your point with a graph you really need a graph like that but also with a second line plotted showing the amount of QE.

          But really, I don’t think this conversation is going anywhere so I’ll let you get back to whatever it is you doing when you are not annoying me.

          • Sam Taylor says:

            If you’d bothered to look at the links I provided, you would have seen that the bank of england back me up. The following quote is direct from their paper:

            “In reality, neither are reserves a binding constraint on lending, nor does the central bank fix the amount of reserves that are available. As with the relationship between deposits and loans, the relationship between reserves and loans typically operates in the reverse way to that described in some economics textbooks. Banks first decide how much to lend depending on the profitable lending opportunities available to them — which will, crucially, depend on the interest rate set by the Bank of England. It is these lending decisions that
            determine how many bank deposits are created by the banking system. The amount of bank deposits in turn influences how much central bank money banks want to hold in reserve (to meet withdrawals by the public, make payments to other banks, or meet regulatory liquidity requirements), which is then, in normal times, supplied on demand by the Bank of England”

            Here’s a graph of change in monetary base vs change in loans being taken out:

            It in no way agrees with your assertion at all. Anyway, you’re right that this conversation isn’t really going anywhere, but only insofar as you’re too rude to bother considering another viewpoint. The modern monetary system operates very differently to how economics textbooks teach that it does, whether you like that fact or not.

        • Willem Post says:


          “QE is not money printing. It is an asset swap program in which the central bank exchanges reserves for financial assets, such as treasury bills.”

          Not quite! My Lord!

          The Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank have the AUTHORITY, by law, to DECLARE, OUT OF THIN AIR, they own an “asset”.

          They loan that asset, at some interest, or for free, to banks and other entities, that would likely go under, as the loans they have made on various properties and to various businesses have gone sour.

          The mortgage backed securities, issued by the financial entities, have gone sour as well, and they handover all that paper to the Federal Reserve, at a discount to face value, to get the loans.

          Such banks likely would not be making loans, and loans is what makes the system go around.

          Thus far, the Federal Reserve has made a declaration of, and loaned out, about $3 plus trillion, and collects interest on that, which it turns over to the US Treasury Department, which reduces the US budget deficit.

          The QE process has worked in the US, and subsequently Japan and the EU reluctantly copied it, hopefully with the same success.

      • David Porter says:

        I grew up in a family which, until I was in my teens, did not have a car, refrigerator, television, telephone or central heating. So, it is hard to understand how what we are going through today can be called ‘austerity’. But, even if this is ‘austerity’ would it really be wise to go on running up more deficits and increasing total debt? We are already indulging in ‘Spend, Spend, Spend’ to the tune of nearly £2 billion per week in excess of our income. The dangers of getting it wrong tend to be under-estimated and involve consequences that even the more hawkish politicians tend to avoid spelling out.

        • We’re not all going through the same financial experiences. Times are a lot tougher for the poorest in society with the use of food-banks rising.

          What it’s not is

          “We are all in this together”

          That was most true in the second world war and in the years afterwards, but not so much now.

          We’ve a sorry road to travel down before the poor here in Britain are as destitute as the poor in America but this is early days of a new UK conservative government so concern is justified in that respect.

          It’s obscene when the productive capacity of the world has never been greater than now that the rich are seeking to indulge themselves to pile up ever higher mountains of gold at the expense of welfare cuts which target the poor.

          The surprising thing is, despite the UK deficit spending and the quantitative easing money which the Bank of England has been pouring into the financial system, deflation still looms!

          There is no shortage of government money, despite what fiscal conservatives claim. They worry about the deficit but they don’t need to.

          So there is absolutely no excuse for austerity, welfare cuts or for failing to invest in needed infrastructure projects.

          The wisdom to spend and to invest is what the government seems to be short of.

          • David Porter says:

            ‘There is no shortage of government money, despite what fiscal conservatives claim.’

            As there clearly is such a ‘shortage’ I wonder whether, in fact, you are thinking of the money that is currently in the hands of individuals and businesses? But, governments are not very good at spending and investing – just one of the reasons why it may not be wise to give them even more of our money.

          • There’s never a shortage of money for sovereign governments who manage their own independent currency David.

            The UK’s currency is the pound Sterling and the UK has total power to manage the £ any way they like.

            The UK can print as many new £ banknotes as they need or want.

            Every year the government spends more money in public spending that it takes in as taxes. Usually that money is covered by borrowing but it doesn’t have to be. The UK can just print additional banknotes to pay the extra over and above what it raises in taxes.

            If a government prints far too many new notes then a problem called “hyperinflation” happens when the value of the banknotes falls in proportion to the face value of the banknotes in circulation.

            But when there is not a risk of high inflation, as now, when inflation is very low, there is nothing to stop a government printing new money for additional government spending.

            Even when the Bank of England created billions of new money via quantitative easing that still did not create inflation.

            Creating wealth is a different matter and not so easy as creating money.

  4. Willem Post says:

    “The Energiewende is being conducted in the name of environmental protection.”

    The ENERGIEWENDE is being done by one of the richest countries on earth, which preens in front of other countries its progress regarding its goals.

    Be like us they are told, follow our lead. It urges the EU not to backslide, etc.

    But these countries do no have the money and hence not the political will.

    Considering the above discussion of water storage reservoirs, it appears a madness has taken hold.

    It appears not to dawn on people, the present unsurmountable problems started around 1800, population 1 billion, when energy from wood began its decline and energy from fossils began its rise.

    The fossil energy is not going to run out anytime soon, say the next 100 years at least, as a slow build-out of RE gradually takes its place.

    During the past 12 years, the RE build-out has been slow indeed.

    Worldwide Energy Generation: As a result of gross world product, GWP, growth, world energy generation increased from 16,174 TWh in 2002 to 23,127 TWh in 2013, an increase of 43.0% in 12 years, about 3.0%/yr over 12 years. Analysis of the data shows:

    – World energy generation…………………..16,174…………23,127
    – Nuclear energy, near-CO2-free…………..16.5%…………10.8%
    – Fossil energy…………………………………….65.0%…………67.3%

    – Hydro energy, near-CO2-free……………..16.7%…………16.4%
    – RE*…………………………………………………..1.6%…………..5.3%

    The 3.8% addition over 12 years of worldwide RE generation required investments of 1.7 + 0.4 = $2.1 TRILLION from 2002 to 2013. The 12-year trend of RE investments to reduce fossil energy generation and replace it with renewable energy generation, if extrapolated, would take many decades, may be even 100 years, to achieve arbitrary anti-global warming goals.

    In that 100 years, we could reduce the population to 1 billion, and turn over large areas of the world as nature preserves for the remaining fauna and flora, and we could reduce energy consumption per capita by a factor of 4, and of other resources by a factor of 10-15.

    Then such monstrous water storage reservoirs would not be needed, and much other human detritus would also not be needed, and beautiful areas would remain preserved forever.

    All that is needed is a change or priorities.

    • Hi Willem,

      Well those EU countries in the euro-zone do not have the money because they are not allowed to create new money because that power has been reserved to the European Central Bank.

      So if Germany really wanted to encourage its euro-zone partners to invest in renewable energy infrastructure they should be arguing for agreed, limited deficit spending powers for the euro-zone national governments to loosen them from a deflationary fiscal conservative straight-jacket.

      Incidentally, that’s also what Scotland needs – “agreed, limited deficit spending powers” to make full fiscal autonomy work.

      I think we should turn over more of the planet to the people. Give city dwellers more of a chance to buy land and build a house in the country. Here in Scotland half the land is hogged by 500 or so ultra-rich land-owners.

      We need land-reform for the people – and not keep the status quo for the fauna and flora which in reality amounts to code for keeping land in the hands of the rich few and keeping the poor off “their” land, which they have no right to hog – but we can afford to sacrifice a modest amount of land for renewable energy generation, storage and associated infrastructure as necessary.

      • Willem Post says:


        One “rich, all knowing” person created the world.

        It would be nice, if he would ordain the number of people and their lifestyles so that his creation would never be harmed.

        Spreading people to all corners of the world, because a few people own a lot of land is about the lamest argument I have ever heard to further aid and abet the world destruction.

        • Willem,

          “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24

          You are wilfully or Willem-ly misrepresenting my argument and refusing to acknowledge why people might want a fair share of land for their own house and enjoyment.

          Most Scots would like a little bit of Scotland of their very own BUT NOT BECAUSE a few people own most of Scotland.

          Most Scots CAN’T GET a little bit of land because a few people own most of Scotland.

          It is typical of pigs who hog loads of things that others need a little of, for those pigs to refuse to acknowledge the need of others and agree to share.

          Such pigs are not the good Samaritan who crosses over the road to help someone in need. Such pigs are the ones who had previously mugged the person and left them lying by the roadside.

          So don’t tell me you are holy Willem. God knows what you are.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Attacking the person and not his arguments.

            Plus you vilify the Rich Landowners, but appear to see nothing wrong with paying them lots of TAX PAYER’s MONEY to have useless Wind Turbines on their land.
            Talk about a mental contradiction.

          • Willem Post says:

            Population explosion and urban/suburban sprawl, made possible by fossil fuels, is THE curse on the OTHER fauna and flora, because the destruction wrought all over the world (the Gulf oil spill comes to mind) to support the urban/suburban complexes, further destroys fauna and flora all over the world.

            Mankind’s exhausts/detritus contributing to global warming is just icing on the cake.

  5. Hugh Spencer says:

    I’m going to repeat (edited somewhat) something that I posted on another site – Pumped storages such as these – have the opportunity to level out the big peaks and trough’s in demand.. however.. we really have to shift our energy supply (demand) expectations .. “decarbonise”, I think is the term.

    This is the hard shit .. how do we realize the reality of limits… when we have been brought up to ignore them.. (mere externalities..)

    “In reply to Richard Schmidt

    May I please repeat the mantra….

    “Maybe we should be seriously considering our energy NEEDS versus our energy WANTS”.

    I think there is a general allergy to considering this…

    will no doubtedly put me in the ‘doomer camp’ – tough.. actually I’m a bit of an optimist/realist .. but I think it behoves everyone on this list to read this commentary .. not to do so would be intellectually dishonest.. and no…, it’s not comfortable.

    also (and his other posts)

    same comment…

    I (at the grand old age of 72), like Tiresias,(minus the wrinkled female dugs – TS Eliot) have seen it all .. I too have chopped kindling for the breakfast fire and milked the cow.. and gotten water from the dam for laundry and I had a happy childhood.. energy reduction does not mean the decline in human value.. just different.

    happy reading and thinking …

  6. Hugh Sharman says:

    Euan, good post, the point of which could have been summarized by your single observation that “…renewables enthusiasts see no boundaries to the environmental destruction they are prepared to create in pursuit of their ideology…” and the blindness to this fact of the tedious “Scottish Scientist”.

    However, in the bonkers but real world of Nicola Sturgeon (she who wants to see Scotland’s nuclear capacity closed ASAP but Longannet kept open while insisting that Scotland must get 100% of its electricity from PV and wind!!), the actual growth of UK renewables continues relentlessly.

    As far as I can discern, the new muppets running DECC will not be changing policy any time soon. In fact, it seems likely that by 2020 that “… in spite of DECC’s attempts to cool the renewables sector, for example through early closure of the Renewables Obligation to solar, the industry continues to bring forward an oversupply of electricity projects for which there is no subsidy budget”! REF’s update on the likely capacity mix in 2020 was published yesterday, at

    Of course, for cynical bastards like me, there are some juicy business opportunities here….!

    • Hi Hugh,

      We need Longannet kept open and operational as back-up for when the wind doesn’t blow, at least until other back-ups come on line – initially, the planned, approved but stalled replacement gas-fired power station at Cockenzie and later, pumped-storage hydro back up when that gets built.

      FM Sturgeon is not using all the powers of the Scottish government to save Longannet.

      Sturgeon could order the Scottish government’s law officers to seek a court order from the Scottish courts declaring National Grid’s unfair transmission charging regime which forces Longannet and other older Scottish power stations to pay higher charges for being located in Scotland where Scottish wind turbines need additional grid infrastructure to carry their power down south.

      Scottish wind turbine operators should pay for their own required new grid work – and if that means Scottish wind turbines get charged more for grid transmission then that’s fair enough in my book.

      If anyone wants to subsidise Scottish turbines transmission costs that, fine, on they go, but Longannet cannot afford to pay so much because it is going bust and out of business.

      Neither Longannet, nor the other older Scottish power station sites, which never needed nor asked for any new grid work done to supply their customers in Scotland, where they have always been, should ever have been made to subsidise the wind turbines.

      I’m all for wind turbines but they should not be abused by National Grid as an excuse to charge all Scottish power stations more for transmission and thereby close Longannet which we need kept open.

      It is National Grid who are the real “muppets”, in my opinion.

      The National Grid are being pig-headed about their unfair charging regime so really Scotland needs control over its own grid so we can save Longannet.

      Sturgeon could also have the Scottish government nationalise Longannet, take it into Scottish public ownership. But that’s something else it seems our First Minister is not wanting to do with the powers Scotand has or push hard to extend the powers Scotland should get.

      • A C Osborn says:

        Don’t you understand why Longannet is going out of business and why there are Coal and modern GAS fired power stations being closed or mothballed in England.
        Just to make sure that you do know, it is the SUBSIDIES for Wind & Solar Plus compulsive first call on Wind & Solar.
        It has created an unlevel playing field where there is no point in trying to keep non profit making stations open. The same thing is happening in Germany and it is so bad that they have had to introduce a law preventing said closures.
        The repsonse of their industry to that step is to hive off the Gas & Coal Plants in to a separate company prior to liquidating it or trying to sell it off.
        The market distortion is going to cause major problems in the very near future, why would anyone bother trying to build new Nuclear Gas or Coal Plants unles they can obtain the same Subsidies, plus a subsidy for Non Use, that is why Hinkley Point makes absolutely no sense whatsoever with it’s current “plan”.

        • Hi A C,

          Yes I was aware of some of the context to which you refer but I had addressed my above comments to the particular handicap which Longannet suffers, not suffered by coal-fired power stations in the south, namely National Grid’s unfair transmission charging regime which charges more for being in the north.

          The SNP are aware of the problem too but have not yet come up with a solution hence my suggestions for action by the Scottish government to save Longannet.

          SNP: “Transmission charges damaging energy sector”

  7. Joe Public says:

    Thanks for yet another interesting article, Euan.

    “The UK has about 12 GW installed wind capacity [5]. BM only meter about 8 GW hence the wind reported by Gridwatch is grossed up by a factor of 1.46 [5].”

    Gridwatch’s page states that wind generates about 50% more than its dial indicates. However, my question is: Is the wind-supplied Load that is not shown on BM/Gridwatch included within their Grid Demand figures? If that Load is unmetered self-demand, should the “Gridwatch (figure be) grossed up by a factor of 1.46”? (I.e If Demand is shown as 40GW and wind is shown as supplying 6GW but actually produces 9GW; is Demand actually 43GW?)

  8. Ted says:

    Even if it was economical and practical to build the mega pump storage I doubt the UK govt would commit countless billions to a scheme in Scotland when there is a real possibility Scotland might not be in the UK a few years down the line.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I never did get to the bottom of the question about who would pay for the ROCs in an independent Scotland. Currently the consumer paid subsidy is shared with the whole of the UK.

    • I trust that projects begun as UK projects would, in the event of Scottish independence, continue as joint projects between independent Scotland and the rest or remainder of the UK.

      The reason for and the economics of big projects doesn’t depend on being controlled by a unitary government but can proceed with agreement and co-operation between governments – for example, the Channel Tunnel project between the UK and France.

      Whoever invests in the scheme – be it the UK or European countries would have their investment reflected I presume in some kind of proportionate “share” of the company, if it was run as a free market venture, or corporate body, if it was institutionalised by law, which would own and manage the scheme on behalf of the partner countries.

      So all the countries who invested would keep their share and control even if Scotland became independent.

      It wouldn’t be in Scotland’s interest to renege on the deal with the UK with the rUK because Scotland would need rUK as customers for the scheme and their continuing permission to use power transmission cables through rUK territory.

      So it would be a safe investment for all of Britain even in the event of Scottish independence.

      • Ted says:

        “So it would be a safe investment for all of Britain even in the event of Scottish independence.”

        Prior to the referendum it was mooted that unless negotiations went the way the SNP wanted they would not take a share of UK national debt. From the rUK poinrt of view I think it would be very foolish strategically to put most of their electricity eggs in one basket in what might be another country while the bill is on the rUK credit card. Far, far safer to build a few nukes in England and if independance comes tell Scotland the subsidies for your windfarms are all yours now.

        That aside diversity is always better. Spending that much on one scheme is of dubious merit. At least if current power stations go offline no one outage wll result in blackouts.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Ted, I agree that modular power units – 500 MW to 1500 MW are a good thing along side diversity of supply. Else where the discussion has gone off in many different directions that I did not anticipate. By way of guidance, where there are strongly opposed views, one is never going to persuade the other to change their mind, here, today. Keep it civil, keep it technical. And those reading but not commenting may learn something.

        • Well it wasn’t foolish for the UK to put most of their channel crossing eggs in the Channel Tunnel project even though France was an independent country from the UK.

          France honours the Channel Tunnel project because it is to France’s benefit to do so.

          Just as an independent Scotland would honour renewable energy investments in Scotland because it would be in Scotland’s interests to do so.

          Honouring good deals, doesn’t mean that France is, or an independent Scotland would be, somehow obligated to commit to sharing in any and all UK debts no matter how peripheral or irrelevant to Scotland’s or France’s needs those debts were.

          I don’t speak for the SNP and I am all for full fiscal autonomy and an independent Scottish pound, floating free of the rUK pound, so I had less reason that Salmond had to offer to share all UK debts because Salmond was wanting agreement for Scotland to continue to have a shared pound Sterling with the rUK.

          The plan for Strathdearn pumped-storage hydro is to add options for renewable energy generation, which increases diversity. My proposal is NOT to take conventional power supply options away and reduce diversity.

          It would be wise even with a nominally 100% renewables-only system in normal operation, to keep many of our conventional power stations, be they gas or coal-fired power station, perhaps even nuclear, available, mothballed, or on stand-by, to supply emergency power as needed.

          So to paint my proposal as “reducing diversity” or “putting eggs in one basket” is false and misleading.

          Strathdearn pumped-storage hydro scheme is a plus, never a minus.

      • Joe Public says:

        “I trust that projects begun as UK projects would, in the event of Scottish independence, continue as joint projects between independent Scotland and the rest or remainder of the UK.”

        SNP policy towards Trident implies the opposite.

        • A C Osborn says:

          The subsidies are a complete & utter waste of good money, only in a “Green world” do they make any sense.
          If wind & solar can’t stand on ther own then they should not be built at all.
          Converting Coal to Wood Pellets is another classic example of screwed up Green thinking and should also be given short shrift.

          • Babies when they are born cannot stand on their own. Doesn’t mean babies should not be made though.

            The renewables energy industry has needed some nurturing in its early years. One could argue about what the best nurturing should be but “sink or swim” is a harsh lesson for one you love.

          • JerryC says:

            This is one of the big misunderstandings out there. Wind, solar and chemical batteries are not new, disruptive technologies, they’re old, mature technologies. As time goes by, there will be incremental improvements, just as there are will internal combustion engines, but it is unrealistic to expect great leaps in efficiency for “renewables”. The low hanging fruit has already been picked.

          • Hi JerryC,

            Persistent common misunderstanding of how best to apply an established technology is a low hanging fruit that remains to be picked.

            For example, huddling wind turbines together in farms shows that there is a persistent common misunderstanding of how best to deploy wind turbines, a failure to understand that wind turbines in farms shelter each other from the wind. That wind farms are a daft idea.

            So there would indeed be a great leap in efficiency if we were to deploy turbines in lines, like pylons, but not straight lines from A to B, but large circular lines, and in the case of land, modifying the circle to deploy turbines on top of exposed high points and ridges.

        • The SNP policy on Trident does imply the opposite of what I do but that’s why Scots should not put all our eggs in the SNP peacenik basket but consider all of our Scottish opinions.

          I’m for retaining the British nuclear deterrent based at Faslane on the Clyde, at least until somewhere better for it can be found and I’ll make that case to the Scots and I trust that other non-peacenik Scots, of whom there are many, will do likewise.

  9. Euan Mearns says:

    Addressing Catch 1 here is the alternative model from SS. Beautiful chart btw – how did you make it?

    “My model” has 50/3*12 = 200 GW of installed wind. The SS alternative says 290 GW of effective capacity that works out closer to 387 GW of installed wind and 1400 GWh of storage. That is a 32 fold uplift from today. The only place to put this would be off shore. What this does show is that by increasing capacity you reduce storage requirement.

    But these must surely be fantasy numbers – you are talking about 75,000 5 MW turbines to power Britain – what would this cost?. And where would they go? The amount of curtailed production would be gigantic. Who is going to pay for all that wasted and subsidised power? I know your model has a large amount of export – but to whom? When the wind blows in the UK it is normally blowing across the whole of N Europe.

    • The chart was made using Google sheets
      which is an online spreadsheet program.

      Yes if it came to delivering an effective 290 GW you’d need to install a fair bit more, perhaps 4/3 x 290 GW in total nameplate capacity because of a percentage of turbines which will be down for maintenance at any one time, or unfavourably situated with respect to the wind direction or local wind strength and therefore not producing 100% of their nameplate capacity even on the windiest day of the year.

      “What this does show is that by increasing capacity you reduce storage requirement.” – yes this is an important result to take note of in our modelling.

      There’s more we could do to squeeze more power and efficiency out of land-based wind turbines.


      – install larger turbines to make better use of the same sites. I’m not sure why you are assuming 5 MW turbines, Euan? There is already an 8GW turbine on sale and companies are developing still bigger turbines. We may see 10 GW, 15 GW or 20 GW wind turbines soon enough.

      – develop bigger turbine rotors with more blades – 4 or 6 blades (5 blades is possible but my guess is that blades on opposite sides would be easier to hang at construction time but I am happy to be proved wrong if 5-blades become the new fashion in wind turbine design).

      More blades per rotor should be the next research and development step for the biggest turbines because the rotor blade tip-speed must be limited to a maximum value otherwise drag and energy loss goes up with, oh, tip-speed-cubed I think it is.

      If the tip speed has a fixed maximum then bigger rotors must turn at a proportionally lower number of revolutions per minute which I think must mean that big chunks of wind will flow through the gaps between rotors undisturbed, without imparting any force or energy to the blades.

      EFFICIENCY – more power per turbine

      – don’t deploy turbines in farms huddling loads of turbines together in massed arrays where they tend to shelter each other from the wind

      – do deploy turbines in lines, more like pylons but not straight lines from A to B but in large circles, but modifying the circular line enough to take advantage of exposed high points and ridges where the wind is at its strongest.

      Well 290 GW in my model assumes that wind is the only intermittent renewable generator. But there is solar too, not much of that here in winter admittedly, but most likely solar can provide something to reduce the total capacity of wind turbines.

      A real system with a mix of intermittent generators – wind, solar, maybe tidal, wave etc. will smooth over the peaks and troughs of generation requiring a smaller total capacity of generation and storage though I am not able to quantify that reduction in capacity at this time.

      Solar is particularly useful for us if situated further south, where they get more winter sun, and transmitted back to us by power cable. More ideas from me on solar in my blog post –

      “Off-Shore Electricity from Wind, Solar and Hydrogen Power”

      The turbines and other intermittent renewable generators will cost MUCH MORE, maybe as much as ten times what is spent on the commensurate pumped-storage hydro.

      For example for Scotland
      I have budgeted £4.3 billion for our 160 GW of pumped-storage but £44.8 billion for the additional 28 GW to add to our existing 5GW to provide a total of 33 GW of effective maximum power.

      Now those figure assume that nothing is done with the surplus or “export” power.

      However, economies can be made if for example, the export power is used for power-to-gas-back-to-power.

      So when the wind is strong and creating more power that is needed for demand and to top up the reservoirs because they are already full to the brim then use the surplus power to create hydrogen gas by electrolysis and store the hydrogen for later, for lulls in the wind in winter and use it to fire gas-fired power stations, thus again reducing the total amount of wind turbine and pumped-storage capacity required.

      But yes it is all very expensive and I suggest that this can only be afforded by additional deficit spending, creating more economic activity, paying for it all and building it over a number of years.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        SS – on how to fund large infrastructure projects of strategic national importance I’m not actually that far from your position. I believe that capitalism and economic growth as we have grown to know it are constructs of the FF era. Energy = Money. Energy surplus = Profit. Energy service = Profit + Comfort + Security.

        Most of the legacy energy infrastructure we use today was built by The State. And while I am “wedded to capitalism” I have this flexibility (hypocrisy some may say) to accept that large capital projects of strategic interest may be funded by The State – perhaps to be sold to the private sector afterwards once the main financial risks have been taken.

        And so for example, I have argued that new nuclear may be funded by The State – where The State runs the risks of political uncertainty that It creates. Hence, I have no fundamental objection to a scheme like Strath Dearn being a State funded enterprise. I think Hoover Dam was something similar.

        The key issues for me are how The State spends its money if it is to re-eneter this arena. Build 30 new nukes or thousands and thousands of windmills and storage and still have a system dependent on FF back up.

        • Well I encourage you Euan and all the energy experts commenting in your blog to keep on giving your expert opinion as you see fit.

          The state (or states) should consult the opinions of independent experts and facilitate important investment decisions being made democratically with the informed consent of the nation (or nations).

          Too often however, managers of state or corporate institutions can be intolerant of alternative opinions being heard, hate the challenge to their authority to dictate regardless, and resort to using all their managerial powers to sack any employee who disagrees and to hire lawyers to muster the full power of the fascist state – police and legal action – to crush any influential expression of dissenting opinion.

          If only we were blessed with nation states which wouldn’t allow their police and courts to be abused to crush dissenting opinions among the nation’s experts.

          Sadly, in this kingdom, which is not a nation state because the nations don’t elect the head of state, independent experts are not guaranteed the liberty they need to serve the national interest and their conscience as they should.

          Regardless of what the law says our rights are, the state can crush even our legal rights and get away with it.

          The state has previously crushed my legal rights and that is the main reason I now post anonymously so I am grateful to you for allowing me the opportunity to comment on your blog. Thank you again.


          I wonder to what extent the state is exercised about pumped-storage hydro proposals or simply wants to “leave it to the market”?

          The Scottish ministers have approved the SSE’s plan for Coire Glas but at only 30GWh this won’t be enough even for Scottish future needs for energy storage never mind Britain’s future needs.

          Neither the Scottish nor UK governments seem to be rushing to invest in or bankroll or incentivize the market to encourage the Coire Glas hydro scheme to proceed.

          Scottish Renewables – Pumped Storage – Position Paper

          So pumped-storage hydro investment seems to be stalled for now and so maybe this is a good time to consider if theret are better alternatives for pumped-storage hydro?

          If not Coire Glas and if not Strathdearn then where, what and when?


          Yes to portable nuclear power in aircraft carriers and submarines.

          Maybe also in future for other portable power applications, where the compact high power of nuclear can’t be rivalled

          But sorry, no, not for more nuclear power stations for the grid, at least not until such time as nuclear can be made fool-proof, which nuclear certainly wasn’t at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Chernobyl was a military reactor. Fukushima should never have been built – but no one has died yet. Fukushima converted Monbiot somewhat bizarrely, to being pro-nuclear. Nuclear power is the safest form of civilian electricity generation ever invented.


            This dam failure killed 171,000. It really takes some beating.

          • “Banqiao Dam … The dam was made of clay”

            Ah, that explains a lot.

            “Chen Xing (陈惺), one of China’s foremost hydrologists, was involved in the design of the dam. He was also a vocal critic of the government dam building policy, which involved many dams in the basin. He had recommended 12 sluice gates for the Banqiao Dam, but this was criticized as being too conservative, and the number was reduced to five. Other dams in the project, including the Shimantan Dam, had a similar reduction of safety features and Chen was removed from the project. In 1961, after problems with the water system were revealed, he was brought back to help. Chen continued to be an outspoken critic of the system and was again removed from the project.”

            And that explains a lot more.

            Hence why I would propose only the safest of dams and safety measures for the Strathdearn pumped-storage scheme and insist, so far as I was able, on

            * open criticism of my plan and of the actual plan which was finally adopted and
            * full inspection rights for all interested parties and journalists,
            * open uncensored reporting of the results of all inspections reports of the construction work and
            * full democratic oversight of the project so that the scheme would only proceed with the fully informed and freely given consent of the people.

            Having a proper working democracy is really an essential safety measure for all human endeavours. This is why totalitarian regimes like China are more prone to terrible disasters and why we must work to perfect our own democracy.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Euan, you may be interested in these Wind Turbine Accident Statistics.

            114 Deaths.

  10. roger in florida says:

    I cannot believe that this proposal is serious, what we are talking about is the total and permanent destruction of some of the most beautiful country on Earth, this is an environmental Wannsee Conference, where the unimaginable is discussed as the normal.
    As Leo Smith says an energy policy based on nuclear would be vastly better than this insanity.

    • A C Osborn says:

      An energy policy based on Abundant Coal would also be vastly better than this and wind insanity.

    • Hi Roger,

      No the modern equivalent of the Wannsee conference are the secret conferences of Sunni regimes – Gulf monarchies and the Arab, African and Pakistani military dictatorships secretly to support their jihadi terrorist proxies, most notably the Islamic State, and their final solution for anyone they can’t enslave.

      If you are seriously concerned with human rights, and not being simply provocative in your reference to Wannsee then get your Florida elected representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against President Obama for ducking and running from Iraq, grotesque incompetence in Afghanistan and craven weakness in the face of the enemy.

      Then find someone with a backbone to elect as president in 2016.

      Now I don’t claim the Scottish or UK ministers are any better but at least we have the excuse that we are subjugated by a kingdom and not allowed to elect a president.

      The world needs America to lead according to its democratic and republican values, not grovel to the rotten despots the rest of the world is stuck with.

      I speak as someone who is very grateful to the USA for helping Europe in 2 world wars, who support President Bush’s invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan but who was dismayed that the USA didn’t follow through against all those other state sponsors of terrorism.

      That’s what is “normal” to my mind – a USA that fights for what is right against all enemies of freedom and doesn’t vote for a quitter president, like Obama.

      • roger in florida says:

        Scottish Scientist;
        You seem to have a rather romantic, but totally inaccurate, view of US politics. if Obama ran for a third term he would very likely be elected, so much for impeachment! The US has never based it’s foreign policy on anything but the preservation or expansion of it’s imperial hegemony, and I mean from the War of Independence to the arming of ISIS.
        But this blog is concerned with energy issues, and this scheme you propose, seriously apparently, is quite nonsensical, it is vandalism on a colossal scale. It would be akin to the US govt. deciding to solve it’s solid waste problems by turning the Grand Canyon into the world’s largest landfill.
        You blithely assume that an independent Scotland would negotiate as an equal with England. Not so, Scottish independence would very likely cost Whitehall it’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council, for this Scotland will never be forgiven. England will pursue it’s own energy policy and as A C Osborn says a crash program of building fossil fueled power stations would solve England’s power deficit in a matter of weeks.
        One of the legacies of Thatcher was the dismantling of the CEGB and the Area Boards, would Britain be in this energy pickle if they still ran the show?

        • A C Osborn says:

          Roger, this piece written in 2012 by James Meek gives quite a good analysis of what happened to the Power Generation in the UK and is still relevant, although I am not sure he knew how bad it would get with practically all the inverstment being in Renewables.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Of course if you really want to feel sick you could read the UK Gov version in 2014.

          • roger in florida says:

            A C
            Thanks for that link. The question I ask is how could we have been so naive? If you lived and worked in Britain during the 60s and 70s, (as I did) it did appear that Britain was ungovernable, so much so that there were many rumors of an inevitable military coup. But to dispose of our vital infrastructure so blithely, it just boggles my mind.

          • @A C Osborn & @roger in florida

            “How We Happened to Sell Off Our Electricity” is a long article but from what I little of it I have read the author seems to be missing a key feature of the weakness in all of British industry, not just the electricity industry.

            I refer to the crushing of academic freedom in our universities, enforced using legal powers acquired for the crushing of civil freedoms such as free speech, the right to publish and to protest.

            Why were civil freedom crushed?

            It goes to the back to the somewhat fascist idea alluded to by Roger that if the people of this country were to be allowed to have actual democracy rights which they could exercise to embarrass the powers-that-be, the country would be “ungovernable”.

            So, the fascist train of thought goes, Mrs T was, supposedly, “correct” when she empowered the UK police state to smash so-called “trouble-makers” such as organised labour and students.

            So the UK, at least since Thatcher, has smashed everyone who wanted to change things in the UK for the better, contributing to the brain drain where our most talented people go off to the USA or Australia to make that country better instead of staying home to make this country better, because those most talented Britons who do stay here and try to rock the boat enough here to change things for the better get crushed, as I was crushed.

            So in my experience our universities now seem to be run often by pompous, intolerant professors, who can’t hold their own in an academic discussion, and when left floundering, pick up the phone to the university managers and they in turn call in university lawyers ready to take legal action to exclude students and junior academics who have dared to present a challenge to the academic authority of the professor, dared to speak out and behave as if they had any actual academic freedom.

            So maybe the reason foreign companies now run so much of British industry is because the UK state, run by British-born supporters of Thatcher and the monarchy, so fear the consequences of allowing the best British-born scientists, engineers the academic and civil freedoms?

            The politicians, lawyers and police children of Thatcher would happily prefer to have the French and Germans running British industry so long as they get to keep control over the courts and the police, with which they can crush “trouble-makers”, that Is to say, anyone challenging their rule.

            That how it seems to me, from my life experience anyway.

        • ISIS is rather contributing to an expanding Sunni imperial hegemony, which contradicts all versions of US foreign policy.

          As for the Strathdearn pumped-storage hydro scheme – it would be far smaller than the Grand Canyon is.

          SD – 55 km
          GC – 446 km

          Max width
          SD – 10 km
          CG – 29 km

          Max depth
          SD – 435 m
          CG – 1857 m

          An independent Scotland does not imply that there would be an independent England to negotiate with but initially we may suppose there would be a remnant United Kingdom, rUK, to negotiate with.

          As the song says, “there will always be an England” but who exactly has the right to speak for England should not be automatically surrendered to the rUK which only has the right to speak for itself, or its monarch.

          Also so long as Scotland remains within the Union of the Crowns, keeping Queen Elizabeth as monarch (and therefore not truly an independent nation state) then negotiations would be between 2 Queen’s ministers, an rUK Prime Minister and a Scottish First Minister, which suggests an equality between negotiating lackeys.

          I expect it would be a cause of much amusement to all the people of these British Isles and beyond if Queen’s ministers didn’t forgive each other about anything and went at each other like a Punch and Judy show.

          I would welcome a bright, hopeful day when either Scotland or England or both are able to pursue our own anything, be that energy policy or anything else, instead of having the kingdom’s version of everything imposed upon us.

          • roberto says:

            “As for the Strathdearn pumped-storage hydro scheme – it would be far smaller than the Grand Canyon is.

            SD – 55 km
            GC – 446 km

            Max width
            SD – 10 km
            CG – 29 km

            Max depth
            SD – 435 m
            CG – 1857 m”

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you’ve assumed that the volume of the whole pumped-hydro system could be emptied… there’s no way one could do that, the volume has to be bigger, and the level of the water in it cannot go down to zero, it cannot be empty… the dam would not be structurally stable under those conditions.

            I’d say you should double it.


          • Hi Roberto,

            Firstly, for my “CG” typos read “GC” for “Grand Canyon”, but you knew that.

            The 6800 GWh figure assumes the reservoir is drained empty, but not the power canal.

            Any dam, that I had any hand in designing or approving –

            * would be structurally stable with no water in the reservoir

            * would be structurally stable with the pumps on full, with the reservoir full to the brim and overflowing the dam top, indefinitely

            * would be structurally stable with a plane load of bombs detonated just where Barnes Wallis would recommend.


            * would be structurally stable up to an earthquake of magnitude 9.5 on the Richter scale, the strongest earthquake ever recorded.

            Just come up with a plan to bring my dam down if you can. I dare ya.

          • roger in florida says:

            I read your comments and I am reminded of the saying “eyes wide shut”. An independent Scotland will be dealing with Whitehall, good luck with that. You are a republican, that much is clear, every republican regime on the planet is a thuggocracy, including the US. But there is no real discussion going on here, you have your prejudices, and I have my experience. Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.
            I wish you and all your fellow jocks the best.
            Roger Beesley

          • roberto says:


            “Any dam, that I had any hand in designing or approving –”

            … well, why don’t you give us an example or two, then, of these wonderful dams?

            All other dams or pumped-hydro systems I’ve seen always specify a lowest height of the water inside… it was on the news last week that the hoover dam has only few tens of meters to go before such a limit is reached, due to the persistent long drought, and then it will have to stop using its turbines… the so called “dead pool status”


            Your comment to this?


          • Roberto,

            Well to start with examine my outline plan for the Strathdearn pumped-storage hydro dam, which shows the dam’s superficial footprint.


            I trust that you can confirm from that image that the dam’s footprint is twice as wide as it is high, which makes it more stable than dams which are not so wide in relation to their height.

            Now there are dams of those proportions or even wider but some are filled with loose rock or earth and so such dams are not as stable as those constructed from reinforced concrete.

            Steel beams, as are used to build skyscrapers, would impart even greater strength to a dam than simply using steel rebar.

            So with both features – a wide dam which is made with steel beam reinforced concrete it should be possible to build a very strong dam that will withstand anything short of a nuclear bomb.

            Those lower limits for water in dam reservoirs represent the recommended minimum required to generate power.

            If the water falls below those levels then you can’t generate power but even so that does not mean, as you claimed –

            “the dam would not be structurally stable under those conditions”

            because even bone dry, most dams would be perfect stable, structurally speaking.

            I suppose if you had a very simple dam made of clay and the clay dried out then the clay might start to crack, crumble and weather away and lose structural strength.

            Otherwise I can’t think why you imagine a modern dam would loose strength being dry.

            Without water, a hydro dam scheme would lose power, obviously, but not strength.

          • roberto says:


            … OK for the structural part of an empty reinforced-concrete dam…

            … how about now commenting on the washington post piece on the Hoover Dam and the dead pool status?



          • Roberto,

            I had commented on

            “on the washington post piece on the Hoover Dam and the dead pool status”

            when I wrote

            “Those lower limits for water in dam reservoirs represent the recommended minimum required to generate power.

            If the water falls below those levels then you can’t generate power”

            That’s all they are talking about with the phrase “deal pool status”. They just mean the big puddle of water, the “dead pool” which is left in the reservoir that can’t drain through the turbines because either the water entrance tunnel is higher than the water level or the water level is not high enough above the turbines to have enough head or water pressure to turn the turbines.

            It sounds from the newspaper story that they have put in new turbines that can operate at a lower water pressure and that’s why the “deal pool” level has lowered, but if you are interested, you research it. I’m not that interested in the details of that story and I am sorry but I am not here to explain everything you read about dams which you don’t understand.

            I’m really here to defend my own proposal, to reassure Scots and others that my dam for the Strathdearn pumped-storage hydro scheme would be strong and safe.

            If you have questions about my proposal. I will answer them but I’m not here to be your teacher on all other matters – sorry about that.

  11. PhilH says:

    This is a solution to a strawman problem. I’m not aware of anyone who has seriously proposed basing a nation’s electricity supply on wind and storage alone. As the Isle of Eigg is already demonstrating using wind, solar & micro-hydro (, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology in Kassel, Germany is increasingly demonstrating in virtual parallel grids using wind, solar & biogas ( – in German only), a grid can be supplied from a mix of generation sources with only a modest amount of storage.

    A more interesting study would be: Rather than building further storage (pumped, batteries, flywheels, etc), would it be feasible & cheaper to overbuild the output of dispatchable thermal renewable generation (biogas, biomass & wastes) compared with their fuel supply generation rate, and only run them relatively occasionally to cover the gaps between supply and demand not coverable by existing storage?

    PS. The capacity of the Beauly-Denny upgrade referred to in Catch 3 is 4-5GW, rather than 0.4GW (

    • As the Isle of Eigg is already demonstrating using wind, solar & micro-hydro …. a grid can be supplied from a mix of generation sources with only a modest amount of storage.

      The Isle of Eigg has 119kW of hydro, 24kW of wind, 30kW of solar PV, 160kW of backup diesel generators and 220kWh of battery storage to serve an average demand of about 12kW. And it still ran out of electricity in the summer of 2010.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        With 160 kW of diesel, how did they manage to run out?

      • PhilH says:

        I think Norway also (nearly?) ran out of hydro in 2010 – it must have been an exceptionally dry year for NW Europe. Looking at Eigg’s system’s spec (wind: 24kW * 30% LF = 10kW avg; PV: 30kW * 10% LF = 3kW avg), I’d guess that its PV component is way underspecified, probably because in 2008 PV was much more expensive than now, and if they had more PV, that could have got them through the dry, calm high-pressure weather period, as there are usually clearer skies with such weather.

      • Willem Post says:


        The 24/7/365 lifestyles about 7.2 billion (soon to be about 10 billion, i.e., more boat people) have gotten used to, courtesy of 200 years of FF, will be a challenge with alternative energy sources, especially considering their QUANTITIES, QUALITY, and INTERMITTENCY and their LAND and WATER AREA requirements. What a visual mess it will be.

        As proven by 12-plus years of ENERGIEWENDE and Denmark’s RE ventures, it will be 3 to 4 times more costly than the existing FF/hydro/nuclear setup to keep all the various capacities in good working order, staffed, fueled, ready to serve at a moments notice.

        Both countries have, by far, the highest household electric rates; France has one of the lowest. A lesson?


        The capital cost to replace most of the existing setup and replace it with an increased RE setup will be enormous on a worldwide scale.

        It took about $2.2 trillion of direct investments (not counting the costs of subsidies and other market distortion effects on the existing setup) to move the RE needle from 1.6% at start of 2002 to 5.3% at end of 2013!!!

        These articles explain all in detail.

        • A C Osborn says:

          Willem, either they are doing it on the cheap or under estimate the cost.
          Or the UN and World Bank are intending ripping off tax payers.

          They only want $89 Trillion.

          • Willem Post says:


            What most folks do not understand is each ADDITIONAL RE percent displacing a fossil percent comes at a higher cost than the prior one, even with so-called advances in manufacturing technology, as with PV panels.

            Also during the past 12-plus years, the fossil percent remained about the same. See my earlier comment.

            Even MODERN plants are being underused because of the RE influx.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Phil, your proposal is to build storage for gas instead of electricity / water. My own view in the medium term the focus should be on using storage for peak demand (like now) which removes need for peaking plants. Pumped storage is the only real show in town. All the rest are too small or too inefficient. So the question reduces to whether we need many smaller pumped schemes or one large one.

      Your right, I got B-D spec wrong but your link says 2.5GW, but its an awfully long document and not easy to find the spec in it.

      • PhilH says:

        I’d suggest that, on all time-scales, smoothing out the winter evening peaks is the first thing to tackle, if such demand management would be cheaper than actually supplying the demand with pumped, or other, storage.

        The B-D document is pretty opaque to me, not being an electrical engineer, but Table 2.2E on p33 & para 5.1.6 on p145 seem to state it most clearly; it may be that the 400kV part can carry 2.5+ GW and the 275kV part can carry 1.6+ GW.

  12. A C Osborn says:

    What will be the cost of 20 times as many Wind Turbines as we have now?
    Where would we put 20 times as many Wind Turbines as we have now?
    They would need replacing every 10 to 20 years, how would that be financed?
    They also have reliability/maintenance issues, how will that be financed?
    Do they still need Subsidies to make them cost effective, if so the price of Electricity to the Consumer is going to at least double, if not treble?
    The investment cost of all this is probably 5 times higher than a Gas/Coal/Nuclear mix.

    Last but not least what would the UK do with all it’s current perfectly good FF generating capacity?

    This is exactly the kind of proposal I would expect from someone who is divorced from practical and economic reality, it makes me despair.

    • A C Osborn says:

      However if an Independent Scotland or the SNP & Scottish people would like to finance a smaller system for themselves I would be totally in favour of it and they cann keep all the electricity for their own use.
      But not 1 English/Irish/Welsh penny goes towards it.

    • Despair? That is not the British way.

      Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gazprom and all the odious apparatus of Putin rule, we shall not flag or fail.
      We shall keep the lights on to the end.
      We shall import and export electricity to France,
      we shall generate on the seas and oceans,
      we shall generate with growing confidence and growing strength from the air,
      we shall power our island, whatever the cost may be.
      We shall generate on the beaches,
      we shall turn on the landing lights,
      we shall generate in the fields and light the streets,
      we shall generate in the hills;
      we shall never black out!

    • Willem Post says:


      You are asking exactly the right questions no RE proponent wants anyone to look into.

      The reason for all the glossy RE press releases, misinformation data secrecy.

      The PARTIAL cost of it all has already been proven by Germany and Denmark.

      See my above comment to Roger and Euan

    • A C,

      The Department of Energy and Climate Change published “Electricity Generation Costs (December 2013)”

      and from page 51 there is Table 20 “Capital and operating cost assumptions for all technologies”.

      You are just as, or more capable, of making your estimates for prices but if you really want to risk my arithmetic-on-the-fly here it is.


      For wind turbines construction costs they estimate onshore from 1600 to 2300 £/kW and offshore 2000 to 3000 £/kW and presumably those are per kW of nameplate power,

      SAME UNITS – £/kW = £1,000/MW = £1,000,000/GW = £100,000,000/100GW

      So assuming for all of Britain an estimate of 2,000 £/kW that’s equivalent to
      2,000 x £100,000,000/100 GW or £200,000,000,000 /100 GW

      £200 bn/100GW, £400bn for 200GW, £600bn for 300GW and so on.

      Not that I think we will need that much wind power capacity with a mix of renewable generators.

      Where to put wind turbines? Well as you know there’s plenty of room offshore which they’ve started to use, even before we’ve run out of room onshore.

      How to pay for building wind turbines?

      Well I have already suggested additional deficit spending for pumped-storage hydro and at those prices that would seem to be the best way to afford all the renewable generators we need.

      Operations and maintenance costs are comparable to conventional power stations so presumably those at least could be paid for by customer electricity bills.

      How to pay for replacing them?

      Hopefully by the time it comes to replacing them costs will come down enough so that the replacements could be financed purely from customers’ electricity bills but that’s not my prediction and I would not be surprised if the reality turns out to be that more government subsidy would be required for replacements too.

      Perfectly good fossil fuel generating capacity should be kept on stand-by or mothballed, at least until we are absolutely certain of the ability of the renewables system to supply all the power we need on demand 24/7/52.

      I trust that with the modelling we have done, we have proved beyond serious doubt that it is feasible to supply power from wind turbines and energy storage. It is possible, for sure. Whether it is cost effective and affordable, is another matter.

      So really, people should stop referring to wind turbines as “useless” because they do work and they can be part of a system that provides on demand power.

      Wind turbines are not “useless” but they are EXPENSIVE, especially so if wind the only renewable generator we rely on. They are better value used with a mix of generators.

      Going about claiming that wind turbines are “useless” is as foolish as going around saying high performance sports cars are “useless”.

      No, Ferraris and Porsches are EXPENSIVE, particularly so if you drive them to work everyday instead of getting the bus or train, but super-cars are not “useless” and neither are wind turbines.

  13. Nial says:

    I don’t normally ‘play the man’ but…..

    I think Scottish ‘scientist’ is probably a 2nd or 3rd year undergrad who has recently latched on this ‘project’ and who doesn’t seem to realise that destroying the planet to save the planet isn’t a good thing.

    He or she likes the sound of their own voice and as for calling themselves an “Independent Scientific Adviser for Scotland”…?

  14. In response to Nail’s “playing the man”, I’d ignore his baiting and simply invite everyone to read my “Scottish Scientist” blog.

    Scotland Electricity Generation – my plan for 2020

    Modelling of wind and pumped-storage power

    World’s biggest-ever pumped-storage hydro-scheme, for Scotland?

    Off-Shore Electricity from Wind, Solar and Hydrogen Power

    Scottish Scientist
    Independent Scientific Adviser for Scotland

  15. Alan Poirier says:

    This entire argument merely serve to underline for me the insanity of current energy policy. All of these schemes are being put forward out of desire to reduce CO2 emissions and not to provide businesses and people with cheap energy. We live in an Alice in Wonderland world and are ruled by a Red Queen.CO2 is a weak GHG and is plant food. I wish physicists would reread Maxwell.

  16. Jack says:

    You’re not Peter Dow who proposed a pumped storage system at Coire Glas, three times larger than that planned by SSE?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I avoided referencing Peter Dow’s concept which cannot be taken seriously although it contains a surprising amount of technical detail. It was when I got to the bit about equilibrating water levels between Loch Lochy and Loch Arkaig and the discussion of 15 m variance in water levels that I decided that scheme was bonkers – providing for the death of the Caledonian Canal and the hydrology of the rivers.

      Pumped storage all along the Great Glen sounds like a Great idea until you consider the hydrology. It was Scottish Scentist’s use of Seawater, and interest shown from David MacKay that prompted this post. Where SS and Peter Dow are correct – pumped storage is the only show in town for grid-scale energy storage. I recently came across a variant of this old and proven technology which could be a “game changer” – watch this space…..

  17. Gaz says:

    Re comment:

    Have learnt a lot on this blog, fair play!
    Keep up the good work, right & wrong…

  18. Al_in_Ottawa says:

    Beg pardon, but wouldn’t pumping seawater into a freshwater loch have severe consequences to the ecosystem? Last time I checked freshwater fish die in saltwater.

    • Which “freshwater loch” are you referring to?

      Do you mean Loch Moy,,+Inverness,+Highland+IV13/@57.3821707,-4.0417389,15z
      somewhat obscured on my map,
      situated about 10km from the Well Head end and as drawn smack in the middle of the line I have drawn to represent the power canal?

      I wondered when someone would ask about that.

      The canal could, perhaps should, by-pass Loch Moy so Loch Moy would survive as a freshwater loch OK. I’ve not really looked at that issue in any detail.

      Or do you mean some other loch? There is no other loch I can think of that you might be thinking of.

      For example, there is no loch in the upper glen of the River Findhorn where the upper reservoir would be built.

      • Al_in_Ottawa says:

        My apologies it was a long day and I didn’t realize that this was an ‘after’ map with no ‘before’ map for comparison. So your proposal is to drown a valley (and its river) with seawater to create a new loch rather than pumping into an existing loch.

        How much of the environment are you willing to destroy or irreversibly alter in the name of global warming?

        For the money your proposal requires, old style nuclear reactors or new technology LFTR or MSTR thorium reactors could be built. The reactors would disrupt the environment less and could be placed closer to the cities they supply energy to, which would require less transmission lines and therefore less line loss.


        • A numerical estimate of the land which may be in some way impacted for the scheme

          Length – 55 km
          Maximum width – 10 km

          would be at most

          Maximum land area impacted estimate – 55 x 10 = 550 kilometres-squared

          and much of that area either side of the canal would be merely inconvenienced during construction and be able to revert to previous use after construction.

          But anyway this 550 km^2 as a proportion of the land area of
          Scotland …………..(78,387 km^2) is 0.7%
          the UK ……………(243,000 km^2) is 0.23%
          the British Isles ..(315,134 km^2) is 0.17%
          1000km radius (3,141,593 km^2) is 0.017%

          So you can see that in proportion to the area that the scheme serves, the area it uses is modest indeed.

  19. John Galt III says:

    Thorium in a LFTR – better than solar, wind and screwing up the world with schemes like this. Thorium is and will be opposed by groups and industries supporting solar, wind, oil, gas, coal, light water reactor/uranium companies: (GE, Toshiba, Areva, DOE), progressives, Marxists, Eco-fascists, 90% of governments that are composed of many of the above groups.

    It will happen anyway by default.

    In the meantime. Why should Scotland screw up their land to store water for England? Just askin’.

    • I’m Scottish and my proposal is more “for Scotland” than “for England”.

      The Strathdearn pumped-storage hydro scheme would benefit Scots by developing a little of our land in a way which benefits the people here in Scotland.

      The scheme would provide jobs, create and grow businesses and trade with customers, some in England but many in Europe too, which would be a source of taxes raised by the Scottish government to be spend on the needs of the Scottish people.

      For those relatively few Scots who are displaced or inconvenienced, they can be generously compensated.

      Rather the question is why shouldn’t Scots examine every opportunity to make the best use of our land?

      • Nial says:

        “The scheme would provide jobs, create and grow businesses and trade”

        This would be paid for out of taxation, so you’re taking useful money out of the economy to subsidise government sponsored jobs.

        How is this going to grow trade?

        You don’t really know how the world works do you?

        • It’s not “b0110cks” at all.

          The scheme is funded by deficit spending (not from taxes), on wages, products and services from business etc – all subject to taxation.

          Now there may not be a one-to-one correspondence to deficit money spent by each participating government into taxes raised by each government. Most likely the Scottish government would gain a proportionately higher share of tax revenues by virtue of hosting the scheme, but without question the scheme would create a lot of business for European construction contractors and those in turn would be taxed.

          What may seem odd to fiscal conservatives is the fact that money is essentially unlimited and it is possible to print new money and for that new money to be converted into tax revenues quite easily.

          What is not unlimited is value or wealth created by work which is limited by the number of workers you have employed and what they are working on, whether it is a job which creates a valuable produce, service or infrastructure or not.

          Spending money this way on valuable infrastructure creates wealth.

          Creating money is trivial – any idiot government can print money – and so really all the economically illiterate fiscal conservatives out there should stop obsessing about money and start thinking about how we can use money as a tool to create wealth which is the important thing.

        • No, and I am repeating myself for the umpteenth time, I am not proposing to fund this other than by increased deficit spending which involves creating new money, not ” taking useful money out of the economy”

          When complete, the pumped-storage hydro scheme would trade in electrical power –

          (1) buying power cheap from North Sea Grid and European Grid countries which when they had a surplus of intermittent renewable power and

          (2) selling power at a profit when countries had a power shortage, caused by a lack of intermittent renewable power.

          Yes I do know. I’m a scientist. Knowing things is what I do.

  20. cgh says:

    Euan, I confess to being truly and deeply puzzled. Over the past 40 years, Hydro-Quebec has built a hydraulic generation system of perhaps 20,000 MW producing at an average capacity factor of 65% (stations and dams configured to follow daily load) and in the process flooded about 8-10% of northern Quebec’s land area. Look at a map’ all those huge lakes you may see are labelled reservoirs. And it’s not finished. There’s still Nottaway-Broadback-Rupert and Grande Baleine to come.

    At least one could say that this was pure generation. But what’s being proposed here is mere pumped storage, with a net loss of what? 50% of the original generation? And all this on an island which in the greater scheme of things is not that large? Are all Brits insane or is this just an affliction of some in Scotland? I’m utterly astonished that anyone could call themselves and environmentalist and advocate such a raping of the landscape as some in your comment thread appear to do. I agree with your numbers. Precision doesn’t really matter; this is about orders of magnitude.

    So is this vast proposal the 21st century equivalent of the Highland Clearances?

    • “Typically, the round-trip energy efficiency of PSH varies in practice between 70% and 80%, with some claiming up to 87%”

      – quote from “Wikipedia – Pumped-storage hydroelectricity”

      No, this vast proposal would be part of the renewable energy electrical power of the 21st century, the equivalent of the non-renewable energy electrical power of the 20th century and the equivalent of the steam-engine power of the 19th century.

      Once again, the Scots would be leading the world into a new age of power.

      • A C Osborn says:

        I have said this on the Swansea lagoon post.
        When are you going to start thinking about the CUSTOMER instead of what “is possible” or “sounds good” or is “green”?
        What Customers, both Private & Industry want & need is cheap, reliable 24/7/52 Energy.
        I will add.
        Anything else is a complete and utter waste of Tax Payers money, money that could be better spent on improved Hospitals, more Doctors, More Nurses, better, safer Roads, more housing & looking after the elderly and infirm.

        • To repeat once more, I am not proposing funding this scheme from “Tax Payers money” but instead from increased government deficit spending, which means the government spending more money that it doesn’t raise from taxes.

          It’s arguable that with all the additional taxes raised from the new work done in constructing this scheme that the government will have more tax-payer money available, not less, for “improved Hospitals, more Doctors, More Nurses, better, safer Roads, more housing & looking after the elderly and infirm.”

          This scheme precisely allows for turning intermittent renewable energy generation in to reliable 24/7/52 energy. Admittedly, it won’t be the cheapest option, not in terms of capital investment required although running costs do promise to be cheaper.

          • Nial says:

            “with all the additional taxes raised from the new work done in constructing this scheme that the government will have more tax-payer money available, not less”

            If the government taxes the money they are spending on this massive money pit, they’ll end up with more money?

            Is that what you’re saying?

            “It’s arguable that”

            No, it’s b0110cks.

          • A C Osborn says:

            It means increasing the National Debt even more.
            Something the SNP are quite happy to do, especially when it benifits Scotland and everyone else in the UK pays.

          • NOTE –

            My reply to Nial’s post May 28, 2015 at 4:14 pm seems to have appeared above in the position more appropriate for a reply to his post of May 28, 2015 at 4:11 pm.

          • A C,

            I don’t speak for the SNP and this is not an SNP-approved scheme, not yet anyway.

            The alternative to borrowing money for deficit spending, which borrowing has to be paid back to whomsoever the government has borrowed it from, the government has the option of simply printing the extra money it needs, not borrowing it from anyone, so in that case there’s no additional “debt” per se that anyone in Scotland or the rest of the UK has to “pay”.

  21. Julian Hunt says:

    Hi Scottish Scientist!

    I m glad to learn that there are sensible people out there that understands the benefits of large scale pumped storage.

    Thanks a lot for you kind compliments and interest in the research.
    Please send me your email to and I will send you an presentation on the Morar Project and will send you an even better, cheaper and with considerably less environmental impact project.

    This project is in Loch Maree and could store cheaply around 980 GWh.

    Please feel free to add it to your blog after I send you!

    Apart from the Loch Maree project, I have patented a technology named “Enhanced-pumped-storage” and published in the energy journal. It is almost becoming a reality in Brazil!

    Thanks again for you kind worlds and let’s push these projects forward and contribute to a real change to the word and society!

    Best wishes,


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  24. Aidan says:

    This looks like the worst Scottish engineering scheme since the Edinburgh trams. (Why build a rapid-transit system from city-centre to airport and then make every tram stop at around 10 points on the route, making it considerably slower than the cheaper bus alternative).

    Now, back to energy storage; If your main source of energy is offshore windpower, why not try to reinforce that with other possibilities provided by their nautical setting? One is the tides, which are pretty high all around Britain, and we also have one of the fastest-running marine currents on Earth across the top of Scotland between the mainland and Orkney.

    Instead of fixing them to the seabed, why not tether these theoretical wind/tide/current units so that the can rise and fall. Then, instead of pumping seawater up into beautiful mountains hundreds of miles away, pump it into (or out of) the giant flotation vessels on which the wind/tide/current generators are mounted. This would create (depending on which way you worked it) either a vacuum or pressure within the flotation vessel which could be released through a turbine to release stored energy when needed. With the addition of the tidal/marine current input, the storage requirement could be hugely reduced.

    There are obvious problems, not least of which is corrosion in such a hostile environment, but the North Sea oil industry seems to have coped.

    I am not an engineer, so please tell me if this complete nonsense – or whether I have missed the greatest patent opportunity in human history?

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