Hydro firm commits £25 million new investment in the Highlands

Perth-based hydro firm Green Highland Renewables is about to start work on a significant new hydro scheme at Loch Eilde Mor, in the hills above Kinlochleven.

The £13.6 million project, which lies on the Rio Tinto estate, is fully funded by the hydro firm’s owners Ancala Renewables and is one of a number of projects the firm is looking to develop across the Highlands.

“This is a really exciting project and marks the start of an extremely busy two years for our firm,” says Green Highland Renewables Chief Executive Officer Mark Mathieson.

“In the last four years we have constructed and commissioned 25 schemes totalling 17MW across the Highlands and in the process have invested £62m – the majority of this going to local construction firms and contractors.

“Add to this the £25 million we have committed so far to new schemes this year, and it is clear our hydro projects will make a significant positive impact on the Highland economy. We have well over a dozen active schemes in our build pipeline with further investment to come, and the nature of our projects means the majority of expenditure goes on civil engineering, much of which is carried out by local firms.

“All of these schemes have secured a feed-in tariff from the UK Government, and the only sad note is that the recent cuts to hydro tariffs announced at Christmas mean we will see next to zero new Highland schemes come forward for construction from 2018 onwards. It will be the end of an era,” Mathieson says.

The Loch Eilde Mor project will start later this month and part of the works access will be via a bridge over the River Leven which also forms part of the West Highland Way. A temporary diversion has been agreed and the bridge will be ready for public use for those wanting to navigate the West Highland Way by the beginning of April.

“Kinlochleven is synonymous with hydro and most Scots will be aware of the importance of hydroelectricity to the people of Lochaber. For this scheme we have engaged with the Kinlochleven Community Trust and will be paying community benefit of £5,000 per MW installed,” Mathieson says.

“We would like to thank Rio Tinto for their positive approach and their agents Bidwells who have been instrumental in bringing this project to fruition,” he concludes.

The Loch Eilde Mor project is set to be commissioned in summer 2017.