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Patrick Thorne

14 Apr 16

New Clean Green Hydro Scheme For Scottish Ski Area

Patrick Thorne

14 Apr 16

Nevis Range ski area near Fort William in the Scottish Highlands has started work on a £4 million hydro electric scheme that will have the power to deliver 1,100kW of clean green electricity.  It will provide green electricity to the base station at Nevis Range to power the gondola, the offices and the Pinemarten café.  When there is excess power it will be exported to the grid.

The project is being developed by a subsidiary – Nevis Range Hydro Company Ltd – with advice from Green Cat Renewables Ltd and  the necessary £4 million capital has been agreed, thanks to a loan from Close Brothers Leasing.

“This is an exciting project –to be part of a company that generates its own power in an environmentally friendly way ticks all the right boxes for a ski area and visitor attraction in this beautiful location.  Added to the existing biomass boiler that heats the base station, this will reduce our carbon emissions – something that matters to a company that utilizes the weather to make its living.  Secondly, electricity is one of our main costs and this will reduce it, and finally being the majority shareholder in the hydro company means we will benefit from ‘poor’ weather, something that affects our core business negatively,” said Managing Director, Peter MacFarlane.

The scheme comprises a small dam at 580m in the ‘Back Corrie’ of the ski centre, 1.3km pipe for a penstock which will be buried, and a turbine house with 2 x 550kW turbines.  An electric cable will be buried through the forest to connect the power house to Nevis Range base station. Once the water has been through the turbines generating electricity for Nevis Range, it flows back into the Allt choille Rais burn, where it drops into Rio Tinto’s intake and plays its part in generating power for the smelter – so it gets used twice.

Principal contractor, George Leslie Ltd engaged highland-based specialist hill contractor, Hitrak to install access roads in advance of main works commencing this week.

“It has been a complex negotiation to raise money for the scheme as it involved the many parties who have an interest in the facilities at the ski centre/visitor attraction and the surrounding land.  I’m very pleased this phase is over and we can progress to building it,” said Marian Austin, a director of Nevis Range Hydro Company Ltd, who added,

“We know that it will be a challenging scheme to construct because of the steep terrain and the isolated, wild nature of the construction site. Specialist machinery and helicopters will be used to minimize damage to the Corrie which has various environmental and landscape designations.  It does snow and rain a lot – a challenge for construction – but that is why it is a great location for a hydro scheme.  I’m looking forward to seeing the project take shape.  It will be visible from a distance during construction but after the pipeline is re-instated, and the access roads restored, it is designed to disappear back into the landscape.”

The scheme is due to be up and running by the end of November in time for the next ski season.

(Pictured above: Charlie Gallagher (left) Site Manager for Contractors, George Leslie with Peter MacFarlane and Marian Austin at the burn which which will provide Hydro power. PICTURE IAIN FERGUSON, THE WRITE IMAGE)