Remote Highland community set to generate own hydro energy

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A remote Highland community is set to generate their own green power at the site of what is believed to be the country’s first hydro-electric scheme.

The Victorian original was built by the renowned civil engineer Sir John Fowler, who led construction of the iconic Forth Bridge and the world’s first underground railway in London.

The new project, which will generate up to 100kw of electricity, will be near the dramatic Corrieshalloch gorge, near Ullapool.

The community-owned group BroomPower is aiming to raise £900,000 to fund the development, with members of the public being invited to buy shares.

Profits will go to local initiatives across the Ullapool Community Trust area, which stretches from Elphin in the north to Braemore in the south and west to Gruinard Bay.

The run-of-river scheme will generate up to 479,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually – enough to power more than 100 homes.

Power will be fed into the grid, with the scheme being one of the last to benefit from the original rate of feed-in tariff before it was slashed by the UK government.

From an intake high up on the hillside, a pipeline will deliver water from the Allt a‘Mhuilinn burn to the turbine.

The steep terrain and wet climate make the spot ideal for hydro power – a fact that has already been proven with the system set up by Fowler primarily to run a sawmill on his Braemore Estate.

The engineer’s Braemore House, built in 1867, is thought to have been one of the first country houses in Scotland to have electric power.

The area is home to a population of around 2,350 people so most local initiatives are run by volunteers and rely on fundraising to survive.

David Maxwell, volunteer director for Loch Broom Renewables, said: “Everyone who invests will be a member and everyone will have a vote.

“It will be at least 51 per cent community owned but we are not excluding anyone from Scotland, the UK or the rest of the world.

“Up to 49 per cent of members are allowed to come from outwith the Loch Broom post code and we already have people from as far afield as the US.”

Stephanie Clark of Scottish Renewables, said: “The Highlands of Scotland are hydro power’s traditional heartland, so it’s great to see a community project looking to develop in such a historic location.”

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