The site inspection of the urban waterways was organised by volunteer marketing group Energise Galashiels (EG) which, earlier this year, received a £24,000 grant to fund a feasibility study.
“The ultimate aim is install hydro systems which can generate around 400kw of installed capacity – enough to supply electricity to 1,000 households, although we hope many local businesses will also benefit,” explained project co-ordinator and EG member Ranald Boydell.
“It will also return the lades, which once powered the town’s famous textile industry, to their former functioning glory.
“It’s an ambitious venture which will cost a lot of money and take several years to come to fruition, but it fits perfectly with our group’s aim of making the town vibrant, sustainable and attractive to residents, visitors and businesses in the new age of the railway.”
Last week’s inspection focused on the system around the Galabank Business Park, where the overgrown and debris-strewn lades have been largely covered over or culverted.
The team included professional diver Richy Reed and diving supervisor Peter Clement of the Aquastars Diving Centre in Eyemouth along with Euan Hogg and Stan Johnson, of Water Engine Technology, who are developing low-head water generators at their new Caddonfoot research centre.
Also on site was Alistair Christie of civil engineers Christie Associates, who have been engaged to assess the structural condition of the lades.
“Richy’s job was to delve into some pretty inaccessible places and check out the lade walls, culverts and bed, taking photographs as he went,” said Mr Boydell. “The findings will help inform our feasibility study which we must publish by February next year.
“If the results are positive we will apply for another grant from Scotland’s local energy communities fund [LECF] to develop the generating systems.”