Green light for island energy scheme left hanging in the balance by coronavirus crisis

A green energy project that will benefit islanders in the north-west Highlands is set to go ahead after lockdown restrictions left its future hanging in the balance.

Work is now due to begin on a community hydro electric scheme on the remote isle of Raasay, off Skye, after plans were rejigged to ensure it could be built in time to meet its connection deadline.

The community-owned Inverarish ‘run-of-river’ hydro project is the first of its kind to be commissioned under the Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) Community Asset Transfer Scheme.

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Once operational the micro system will generate around 440,000 kWh of renewable electricity each year, more than enough to power all of the island’s 77 households.

Work is set to commence on a new community hydro scheme on the isle of Raasay after plans had to be rejigged due to Covid-19 lockdown measures

Excess energy will be sold to the national Grid, raising money for the Raasay community.

All necessary permissions are in place, including a valid grid offer from network operator SSEN.

But to secure the feed-in tariff for providing power to the National Grid, the micro-hydro scheme must be operational by Sept 2021.

This has meant some major adjustments to work, including rescheduling harvesting operations.

The community-owned micro-hydro scheme will generate more than enough green electricity to supply all households on the island, with the excess being sold to the National grid to raise cash for local projects

Iain Hector Ross, chair of Raasay Development Trust (RDT), said: “The current Covid-19 restrictions have meant some rearranging and fine tuning of timescales, but we believe that we can quickly build momentum when things return to something near normality.

“We believe this is only a pause and minor inconvenience, considering the longer-term sustainability benefits this project will deliver for the island.”

The renewable energy scheme sits within RDT’s five-year development plan and will be the newest addition to a long list of initiatives, including buying-out the island’s shop and post office, purchasing 2.4 acres of land for the purpose of building affordable houses and purchasing an old quarry site to develop a local wood fuel enterprise processing logs purchased from FLS.

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Graeme Prest, north region manager for FLS, said:“Covid-19 restrictions meant we all had to have a bit of a re-think, both to make the necessary adjustments and to assess what could be done to keep the project moving forward and be ready to get cracking once restrictions ease.

“We’ve made alterations to our proposed felling works to align them with RDT’s plans so that construction can go ahead as soon as possible in line with Scottish Government guidelines and still meet the Feed-in Tariff deadline.”

The Inverarish scheme will make use of two water intakes – one from Inverarish Burn and another that uses a weir dating back to the early 1900s, when iron ore mines were in operation on the island.

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