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Caithness major energy storage plan to go before Highland Council – but no decision will be made

By Gordon Calder

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A PLAN to create a multi-million pound energy storage plant in Caithness is to go before Highland Council next week. But members of the North Applications Planning Committee will only be asked to note the Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) which must be submitted at least 12 weeks before the actual application is lodged. That is a statutory requirement for major or national developments.

Highview Power, a London-based business specialising in long-duration energy storage, wants to create the plant at Spittal in an unused quarry owned by local firm, A&D Sutherland.

How the scheme might look travelling north on the A9 from Spittal, with the existing houses on the left.
How the scheme might look travelling north on the A9 from Spittal, with the existing houses on the left.

The five-acre site – to the north of Spittal Mains quarry – would create a cryobattery energy storage system which could deliver 49.9 megawatts of electricity for up to six hours, providing enough power for 120,000 homes. It would require 10 permanent staff for operations and maintenance work and create around 300 jobs during the construction phase.

The technology proposed for the Albannach Power initiative works by taking ambient air from the atmosphere, removing the carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – and particulates and cooling it to liquid form. It is then stored on site in insulated low pressure vessels. At times of demand, the liquid air is evaporated, heated and expanded through a turbine to generate electricity.

A report which will be before councillors on Tuesday states that the facility will comprise, cylindrical storage tanks with a maximum height of 45metres, a charger (air liquefier), generator, control room and ancillary plant.

It says: "In total, the buildings would cover 2,974 square metres and 8,512 square metres would be plant and machinery. Connection would be made to the transmission network at the existing Spittal substation. All connecting cables would be buried. Groundworks will involve re-using the bunded quarry material to infill the existing quarry sumps and crushed stone will be removed."

The report adds: "The proposed site is situated on the eastern side of the A9 road at Spittal. The development will be on land within the disused quarry at the Spittal Mains Quarry. There is an existing access and car park from the A9, and the entrance is bounded by a stone wall, which will serve the proposed development. The site currently contains a number of buildings which are located along the boundary with the main road. The closest existing residential properties are located to the south of the site. Three are no designated core paths within the site boundary."

Highview Power received a £10 million UK Government grant in 2020 to develop a similar plant at Carrington, near Manchester. It is expected to go into commercial operation in 2022.

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