Power to the People


(No cameras allowed so this is a picture of the tunnel at Crauchan from their website)

We went to see a power station today. Called Crauchan the hollow mountain, it’s not really a hollow mountain, it’s a tunnel. The tunnel runs for a kilometre to a power station in the mountain which consists of four huge turbines that can create 100,000 kilowatts of electricity and it only takes two minutes, or 28 seconds if the turbines are already spinning. Who knew electricity could be so interesting but we had a very enthusiastic guide called Dorah and she inspired the following story.

Osprey Nest

(There’s lots of wild birds near the power station. You might be just able to make out the Osprey’s nest on the mobile phone mast. Dorah said they must be smart birds, they have the pick of the farmed trout – also in the picture – and free mobile calls home to Africa)

This is what happens… there’s a dam further up near the top of the mountain, full of water. There’s a lake, Lough Awe, at the bottom of the mountain. The power station gets a message from the electricity board, quick we need more power Xfactor took an early break and the whole of Britain just switched on their kettles! Then the man in the control room under the mountain flicks a switch and the water from the dam floods down into the mountain and through the turbines and out into Lough Awe. Within twenty eight seconds (the turbines are always spinning during Xfactor) there’s enough electricity to heat the kettles.


(This is reality here)

When the water from the dam is all used up the turbines then reverse and pump water from Lough Awe back into the dam ready for the next break. This very neat and self-supporting idea of being able to both create electricity with flowing water and refill the water to create again was the brainchild (or dream) of Sir Edward McColl. Although Sir Edward was a very intelligent, hard working and creative man he found it difficult to delegate and died in his prime a few years before the first reverse turbine power station at Crauchan was built.


(The feathered visitors)

So I was thinking…. it’s all very well to have a dream and work hard fulfilling it but…. if you ignore the signs for rest and balance then you just might wear out before your dream comes true! Put on the kettle, take a break and think of Sir Edward who may indeed be responsible for the power I’m using to type this.

Thank you Sir Edward McColl, Mairead.