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.
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.