On Tuesday 12th three representatives from KWHG were given a guided site visit to the Allt a Chonais hydro project near Craig, Achnashellach. This scheme takes water down a pipe from a remote glen, and will generate 2MW of power to the grid. It is planned to start generating power by the end of 2014. The project is being overseen by Green Highland. their site is here. The community have and interest in the project and it has been agreed that a set amount of the revenue will go to the community each year. This will be administered by the local Community Council, 20% will go towards the River Carron Salmon fishery project and the other 80% will go towards other local projects.
The visit was very interesting. An incredible amount of background work and consultation has gone into ensuring that the natural eco systems, flora and fauna are protected and restored. The project workers have had to avoid areas where protected species live and even stop work for a few months to protect certain nesting birds in the area.
This is the power house where the turbine will capture the energy from the water travelling down the glen.
The outflow from the power house is strictly designed to break up any residual energy coming from the water pipes and turbine, to minimise disruption back into the natural water courses. There is also a gate to stop any salmon, attracted to the turbulent water, from jumping up into the hydro system.
The view from the top of the project is spectacular. There is an existing track up into the hills which was used by drovers in the past and estates now. This will all be restored after construction work is finished.
At the top of the site the drilling company are based. The Water is to be captured in a pipeline which will be buried on its route down to the power house. At the upper stages of the site the pipeline goes through 700m of rock. This is being drilled through currently. The water that lubricates the drill is fed back up, filtered and recycled, so none of the mud or silt enters any of the natural water courses. When this tunnel is finished and large enough to take the pipe, the pipe will get pulled up and through the tunnel into position, it is currently sitting on rollers. After this it all gets buried and the original peat and turf gets reinstated. The overall environmental impact will be minimal, but it is hoped that the energy created and income generated will benefit this community for decades to come.
We are grateful to Green Highland for taking the time to take us around the site and explain how it all works.