Getting wet feet
It’s over two months since the diggers moved onto the Bunavoneader site. Looking at the weather today, we are definitely getting into the wet season.
Work started by creating an access track up to the common grazing boundary. As with all projects in Harris, this was followed by a few weeks of rock-breaking. An intake is being built in the river just beyond the old dam. The river banks have been cut back to clean rock here, and some pipes sunk into the bed of the river to take the water, whilst the intake is built over the top.
Work has progressed well, with the concrete blinding being installed as a foundation, a couple of weeks ago. The intake structure is now taking shape on top of this. The picture shows the construction crew setting out the formwork for the main chamber that the water gathers in, before heading down the pipe to the turbine.
Heavy rain has stopped work in the river today, but the plan is still to complete the in-river work in the next couple of weeks. After that, focus can move to installing the pipe and erecting the turbine house at down at the shore.
The volunteer Directors of the Trust and its Trading Company have been working on this project since 2009. Despite financing and electricity grid set-backs we are now underway, with our JV partners S.T.I.L. The hydro-turbine itself is on order, but will not be on site until March next year. We look to be generating in the spring.
By this time, the government consultations on the Feed-in-tariff (FiT) will have closed and the changes implemented. FiT is the scheme that pays for the generation of “green” energy. Once again the goal posts will move. The pre-accreditation system is to end. This allowed developers to lock into the current FiT rate and still have two years to finance and build their hydro schemes. Community groups like ourselves needed this time and this guarantee of future earnings to find finance and ensure viability. With the recently-announced moratorium on grid connections in the Western Isles and this revision of the FiT scheme, Bunavoneader is likely to be the last new hydro scheme for some time.