Early last year, we started exploring the possibility of building a small-scale hydro-electric scheme on the Maraig river. Since Maraig and Rhenigedale were connected to the Carragraich Treatment Works, the small water treatment works at Maraig stopped extracting from the river. This gave the Trust the opportunity to take water for hydro-electricity.
In April, the Trust was awarded Community and Renewable Energy Scheme funding to progress the project through the permissions stage. Highland Ecodesign was the company that carried out the feasibility work. They were engaged once more to come up with a scheme that fits the constraints imposed by the grid company and meets planning and SEPA water extraction requirements.
The scheme comprises a small weir and intake next to the Rhenigedale turn below the old water treatment works. A turbine house will be constructed down near the shore on the Eilean Anabaich side of the footbridge. The two sites will be linked by a buried 350m length of 560mm plastic pipe.
During the summer, the prescribed environmental surveys were carried out. Firstly a fish habitat survey with electro-fishing; then a protected mammal survey, looking for otters and fresh-water mussels. Then a full topological survey and a peat management plan. Finally a sediment plan allowed us to submit our application for planning permission in September. In December we secured planning permission and a SEPA licence. With a £12,000 deposit already paid to SSE for the grid connection, all the permissions are now in place.
The next stage is to decide how the project will be funded.