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!

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