Posts Tagged ‘hydro electric’

Maraig Hydro update

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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.




Bunavoneader Hydro Scheme update

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It’s getting on for 18 months since we last reported on this project. Things have been progressing slowly – but just not very visibly. We have had a number of set-backs with grid connections and finance deals, but now things are looking more hopeful.

Last year in May, we received a new grid connection offer. This is a very rare item in the Western Isles. All proposed large turbine schemes are on hold until the new undersea cable is installed to the mainland. You’ll have seen from the local press that this is still not confirmed. The latest estimate is 2019. Anyway, we received the offer for a 150kW turbine and immediately accepted it and paid the deposit. With planning already in the bag, all that was remaining was the finance.

In December 2013 we were introduced to Sustainable Technology Investors Limited by a community group on Mull. They are keen to help develop small scale hydro schemes. Since the start of the year, STIL has reviewed the design and have signed a Heads of Terms agreement with the Trust to start the wheels moving. Engineering Consultancy AECOM has been engaged. They have started the detailed design works and are liaising with Ross-shire Engineering and their civil engineering partner to firm up pricing for the turbine and the civil works. At the moment, the team is aiming to get all the in-river work complete before the wet season starts in 2014. The Turbine itself is on a 35 week lead time – so commissioning of the scheme will not be before summer 2015.

Now that the detailed design work is nearly complete, the critical thing is for SEPA to approve the designs. We await final approval from the crofters in the area, but once this has been done, we can get on and build something. We’re now in the sixth year of this project; let’s hope no more spanners get thrown in the works.

Maraig in the mist

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The Feasibility Study for a hydro scheme on the river at Maraig is underway. It’s taken over six months since the original enquiry, but after pulling together three other community groups and sourcing funding from Community Energy Scotland and Leader – we are finally on our way.

On a misty Friday morning, three engineers braved the midges and headed out to walk the river. Highland Eco Design won a tender to review four potential community hydro schemes. After visiting Swordale, Galson and Gress, they “saved the best to last”. We haven’t had any serious rain for weeks. I thought this would be a bad thing – they said no -it’s exactly what we need to see. The level of the river they saw was the level that SEPA will insist is retained as a minimum throughout the year.

We walked from the Scottish Water weir down to the shore then back up to walk another tributary. It’s clear that there are a number of options for a scheme. There is one big constraint though -SSE will only allow a 50kW generator onto the grid. Until the interconnector goes under the sea to Ullapool – which will be a few years away yet – 50kW is where it’s at. So the dilemma is whether to design a 50kW scheme now or to build a bigger scheme and constrain it to 50kW until the new cable is in place. If we build a 50kW scheme, do we build it on a smaller tributary, keeping the bigger stream clear for future or do we use the best stream and get the best output now? So many questions – and three engineers to think about it – one already has his thinking cap on!

Another hydro opportunity pops up

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Just when you’re really not getting anywhere with a project, another one comes along.

Scottish Water has spent a fortune upgrading the Water Treatment Works at Carragreich. This is now supplying purified water to the majority of North Harris and Scalpay. Last year a pipe was installed over the hill to Maraig; connecting the village to the new water main. In doing so, another of the remote, village-scale treatment works becomes redundant. And there’s the opportunity. Plenty of water tumbles down from behind the Clisham, now with no-one to use it. Maybe we can design a 50kW scheme that will get around the grid constraint that is holding up the bigger Bunavoneader project. All projects >50kW are on hold until the undersea cable and interconnector are in place… and who knows when that will be?

Community Energy Scotland has offered to put together a tender for a feasibility study for this river as well as two other potential community schemes on Lewis. Hopefully in a few months time we’ll have a better idea of the costs involved, and how productive the river could be.

Goal post shifting

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Just  when you thought it was all going smoothly, everything changes once more.

Our hydro scheme has been on hold for fast-approaching a year, whilst the UK government contemplates changes to the Feed-in-Tariff. The consultation is now over and we now hope for a June closure to the process. In the mean time, we thought out of courtesy that we should tell SSE that we won’t be exporting electricity onto their grid this year as planned because of the review. The response was along the lines of “that’s OK, we weren’t going to connect you until 2015 anyway.” This came as a bit of a shock. Lurking in the small print of our connection offer is the phrase “subject to any transmission connection works”. This little phrase now relates to a £300M sub-sea cable between Lewis and Ullapool. It’ll carry 450MW of renewable energy to export to the south. We just want 0.0002% of that capacity! We’re told that at the moment, the grid in Lewis and Harris is full. So that’s no more renewable energy from Lewis & Harris in the next three years! So much for those European targets on renewable energy.

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Review of FiTs hits hydro plans

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Reproduced from Friday’s Herald..

THE UK government’s review of feed in tariff (FIT) energy payments is estimated to have stalled £100 million of hydropower investment in Scotland. The British Hydro Association claims dozens of small and medium-scale developments have been halted and left in limbo since the Department of Energy and Climate Change announced a review of the FIT process last year.

While changes to payments for solar schemes have already been announced, no date has been set for a consultation into the hydro sector where Scotland is thought to hold up to 90% of the UK’s resource.

At the moment, hydro projects can get up to 21p per kilowatt hour generated through the FIT scheme. David Williams, chief executive of the British Hydro Association, said: “If the tariff isn’t too badly affected then hopefully these schemes which have been stopped will go ahead.

“But if it does get knocked down then some of them could fall by the wayside. We are just hoping and praying the review doesn’t hit the hydro tariff adversely.”

Scottish Renewables said the uncertainty meant several of its members had been unable to complete projects.

“Companies across Scotland, both large and small, are being affected by the delays and we must ensure that any future reviews are carried out in a much more transparent way that gives increased certainty to the industry.”

Another example is the £638,000 Bunavoneader scheme, by the North Harris Trust, which had its bank funding put on hold in the middle of last year due to the concerns.

The 100 kilowatt river scheme has the potential to generate £100,000 a year, which would be used for regeneration projects.

David Wake, energy development officer at North Harris Trust, said: “It is terribly frustrating.

With you all the way!

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Some good news concerning finance, at last. The Bank of Scotland have changed their mind and are now willing to provide secured borrowing for the hydro scheme. This is excellent news, and pushes us closer to having all the finance lined up for the scheme.

Over the last few months it’s become clear that the high-street banks are missing a huge opportunity. Last year a report was published highlighting the potential for Scotland to generate renewable energy from its rivers. The Co-op Bank and Triodos Bank have been ahead of the game, and are merrily scooping up the majority of the community schemes that are being developed. They are offering loan finance, secured against the schemes themselves. The high-street banks are still asking for external security, and will not loan against forecast earnings of a scheme. Slowly they will catch up. Over the last few months, I’ve spoken to many banks; most of which realise the opportunity, but have out-dated policies on lending for renewables, that prevent them acting.

Luckily for us, the Trust’s bankers, Bank of Scotland are a little more enlightened!

Bunavoneader Hydro Scheme update

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It’s nearly five months since the last update on our hydro scheme. Since then we have been beavering away, trying to get the finance in place to build the scheme. We have a loan offer from the Co-op Bank, but it’s only for 67% of the project cost. This is a lot less than we had anticipated. This leaves us to source a further £200,000.

The rules for the government’s Feed-in-Tariff scheme have changed over the last year -this is the scheme that will pay us for creating green energy. It no longer allows the use of public funding for such community schemes. This is now regarded as a State Aid, which would give us unfair advantage over more commercial organisations. So, we are left to source the additional funding from private trust funds or commercial lenders.

Our first port of call was to the Bank of Scotland. Since it was established in 2003, the North Harris Trust has banked with BoS. We asked them for a secured loan for the hydro-scheme – and they refused us! Despite eight years of “in-credit” banking and huge assets to borrow against, despite the government putting pressure on banks to lend to small businesses – they said no. So we are now exploring every other avenue open to us, to source private funding to make the scheme happen.

The good news though is that we now have a Licence from SEPA to extract our water from our river.

Micro-hydro – what does it look like?

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the intake weir

In late January, I was lucky enough to attend a hydro briefing session at the Abernethy Trust’s centre at Ardgour, near Fort William. The Aberbethy Trust is a charitable organisation that runs a number of Outdoor Activity Centres. Last year they commissioned a 90kW hydro-electric scheme at their Ardgour site, so a number of community groups descended on the site to find out how they did it. Community Energy Scotland rounded up groups from Calendar, Applecross, Sleat-Skye, Mull, Creetown-Dumfries and Harris all of whom are in the process of developing schemes.

The Bunavoneader hydro-electric scheme will be of a similar size, so we were very interested in their designs and their choice of equipment.

a 90kW turbine and generator

The Ardgour scheme is on a very small river that drops 120m to the shore of Loch Linnie – Unlike the Bunavoneader scheme which has lots of water but only a 30m drop to the turbine house. The turbine is much the same size though, so it gives a good idea of what we will be siting below the bridge at Bunavoneader. The big advantage that the Ardgour site has is in the ground conditions.  They were able to build a track up to the intake with an excavator –no need to blast rock or ship in tons of infill. This goes some way to explain why the North Harris scheme will cost three times the Ardgour final bill.

Grid Connection


The scheme started generating in June. The ultimate aim is to build a private electricity grid around the site. This will feed their own electricity into the centre and all the surrounding staff houses. For now though, electricity is fed into the national grid and sold. Abernethy is one of the first schemes to find its way through the new  Feed-in-Tariff process. Six months on and they are hoping to get their first cheque .

The story to take away from the visit is that it is possible. Barry, like many of the community representatives is not an engineer or a hydro-developer, but by sheer persistence over a three year timeframe, has delivered a scheme that is now earning money for his charity. So successful has it been, he is now planning a second scheme in the next valley along.

Thanks to Community Energy Scotland for facilitating, Development Trust Association of Scotland for funding the trip, and Barry Edmundson from Abernethy, the brains behind the scheme.

Bunavoneader Hydro update

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In October we issued an Invitation to Tender (ITT) for the Design & Build of the Bunavoneader hydro scheme. During November a number of construction firms from across the UK came to look over the site. We have chosen a Design & Build contract to reduce the risk involved in managing multiple suppliers. Ideally we want one company to own the design and construct the scheme. The ITT also includes maintenance and support of the equipment once it’s up and running too.  

As part of the selection process, we are assessing the local content of the bids. The Trust wants to ensure that local businesses get some benefit from the project. Unfortunately we have no hydro-electric experts on island, so the project will be delivered by a joint venture of some form.  

Anyway, we have a number of bids to build the scheme, which we are currently poring over. Community Energy Scotland are helping us from a technical perspective. It’s hoped that we can appoint a partner to progress the project in February. Assuming we can get the finance sorted out in Spring, we hope to break ground in the Autumn.

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