'Star Wars' power station set for £80m upgrade

The site on Loch Awe is one of four pumped storage hydro facilities in the UK and featured in Disney+ series Andor.

Cruachan power station that featured in Star Wars television prequel show Andor set for £80m upgrade Drax Group

A power station in Argyll and Bute that featured in a hit Star Wars TV show is set for an £80m upgrade.

Cruachan power station, known as the “Hollow Mountain” situated on the shores of Loch Awe, is one of four pumped storage hydro facilities in the UK.

The £80m project will see the generating capacity of two of the plant’s four units increased to 480 MW with German firm Andritz appointed as contractor.

The facility featured in Disney’s hit TV series Andor starring Narcos actor Diego Luna – a prequel show to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story released in 2016.

The series follows the title character, Cassian Andor, with one episode filmed at the station’s 316m high and 46m long dam described as a “highlight” of the show.

Production designer Luke Hull said: “We were intrigued with the idea that we could build a planet around the Scottish Highlands because so many of the Star Wars planets are desert or ice, so it was interesting to find a tangible landscape that could form a different version of a planet.

The dam was described as 'looking like Darth Vader's mask' according to a production designer on Andor.Drax Group

“If you look at the dam, it looks like Darth Vader’s mask.

“The notion of everything that we’re trying to do with the series is to suggest that the Empire was a bit of a blight on any landscape, so it was perfect.”

The site was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in October 1965 and still contains turbines which are now more than 50 years old.

The world’s first reversible pumped storage hydro system was installed and the site also has a visitor centre with tours of the station available.

Drax’s interim chief operating officer, Penny Small, said: “Pumped storage hydro is vital to the UK’s energy security, it’s a technology which works in partnership with renewables.

“These plants play a critical role in stabilising the electricity system, helping to balance supply and demand through storing excess power.

“When wind turbines are generating more power than we need, Cruachan steps in to store the renewable electricity so it doesn’t go to waste.

“By investing in Cruachan today, Drax is ensuring the power station can play an even bigger role in the energy system of tomorrow.

The Cruachan Dam power station still contains turbines first installed when it was opened in 1965.Drax Group

“We look forward to working with our contracting partners to deliver this exciting project.”

A study by Scottish Renewables estimated that the project could create and support up to 1,100 jobs, say Drax Group.

Dominik Fust, managing director at Andritz Hydro said: “We are proud to have been entrusted with the refurbishment of the Cruachan pump storage power plant.

“This project aligns with our mission to contribute to the global transition toward sustainable energy generation.”

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