You are here: About > About the Foundation > Knoydart Renewables > 
17.10.2019 : 21:47 : +0100

Science Facts

  • Loch altitude - 274m
  • Max flow rate - 129 litres/second
  • Turbine - Gilkes & Gordon pelton wheel
  • Output - 350kva
  • Max kW output - 280kW
  • Distribution:
  • 11kv 3 phase electricity
  • 85 poles
  • 14 transformers
  • 5km of power line
  • over 70 properties & businesses

2015/16: Current Priorities

This year will be focused on organising and implementing the hydro dam improvement project.  This is a strategic improvement project that will help secure our energy supply for the next 40 years.  The main works are to renew the original 1970s hydro pipe through the dam, using larger diameter pipe which will hopefully also improve the flow rate and power output of the turbine.  We also plan to replace the scour pipe and include a valve to allow periodic scouring of sediment from behind the dam in future.  We hope to be able to reinforce the inside face of the dam which will stop some of the minor water leaks which have begun to appear.  A new screen frame will allow stop logs to be installed in the future, to enable the drying out of the intake area for inspection and repairs, without de-watering the whole dam.

The remaining funding for the project has almost been reached in order to progress with the work starting 1st August 2015.  It is expected that the project will take up to 8 weeks to be completed.  Should you wish to support this project with a donation, please contact angela(at)knoydart.org

In addition to the improvement project, the company will be continuing its demand-management work to reduce peak-time demand and increase consumption of electricity during off-peak times.

While the hydro is off during the dam improvement work, the turbine and hydraulic governor system will received an overhaul in addition to general maintenance activities being carried out at the turbine house.

We appreciate that undertaking this work will cause some inconvenience for our community and visitors - we hope everyone understands the importance of the work and why we are doing it.

2014/15: Achievements

Kyle recruited as operations manager.

We were sad to learn of the death of John Duncanson who helped us so much over the years.

Scope of work was identified for the dam improvement project and project partners were identified.

An under-water camera survey of the dam intake area was undertaken.

A load test of the hydro system provided a maximum power output of around 200kW.  It is possible that further power improvements may be achieved by increasing the diameter of pipe through the dam where there is currently thought to be a restriction in flow rate.

the University of Edinburgh started a research project on Knoydart which is leading to a longer term relationship between them and Knoydart Renewables Ltd.

The company received a CARES Infrastructure and Innovation fund in partnership with Community Energy Scotland and the University of Edinburgh.  This funding has supported power demand analysis and hydrological modeling of the Loch Bhroamisaig reservoir to better understand the relationship between the hydro resource and the consumption of energy.

In addition, a power information website was created to share the community's demand for power in real time (undefinedpowerofknoydart.org).  However the bulk of the funding was also focused on identifying a reliable communication system that can control electrical loads to reduce peak time demand for power but also to increase off-peak consumption of electricity.

We are currently trialling storage heaters in the community-owned Bunkhouse that respond to changes in power and are looking to trial operation of an electric boiler in tandem with an oil boiler.

The 10 year statutory dam inspection was brought forward by 2 years in order to influence the design process for the main dam improvement work.  The results noted that the lead at the western abutment required urgent attention but was not a threat to life or property.  Contractors visited the dam to give input into what is practical.

Ecological survey undertaken at Loch Bhraomisaig.

We installed an additional air break switch on the 11,000 volt overhead powerline behind the village.  This allows us to put the west end of the hydro scheme onto diesel generator in certain circumstances to minimise disruption to residents.  It has already proved useful, enabling isolation of a section of the powerline behind the village, without loss of supply to customers during the day when tree felling works were being undertaken in March 2015.

A new 9kva generator was purchased as a temporary replacement for the failed unit at Tigh na Roan, and for future standby use.

Removed old overhead supply to the chapel.

Powerline tree clearance.

Installed bunding and transformer oil change at the turbine house.

Lots of winter power outages due to lightening strikes, snow and other storm damage.

2013/14: Achievements

Flensburg university visit - lots of useful info collected by the students.

During replacement of the hydraulic pump, we had an oil leak at the turbine house which led to a review of operations and pollution control systems.  Oil spill training was undertaken later on in the year and risk assessments undertaken of both the turbine house and generator shed.  SEPA visited and are happy with our improved procedures.

New bowser purchased to assist with diesel deliveries for the generator shed.

New monitoring equipment installed with advice from the students and a grant from the CARES fund.

Wallace Stone report and inspection of dam.

Dealing with stom damage and related power outages was a big issue through the winter. 

 

 

2012/13: Achievements

Our priorities over the past few years have been influenced by the need to determine the problems with the pipeline. Despite the turbine's technical ability to generate 280kw, we have only been able to reach 180kw. After considerable testing it would appear as though this is down to general problems with the pipeline, especially around the joints, along its whole length. After considerable discussion the board have come to the conclusion that it needs to work on the basis that it has 180kw available, and discussions are now staring with regard to the forward strategy of the company on this basis. A meeting is to be held in May 2012 with various partners to help take discussions forward.

Repair work undertaken at the larder folllowing storm damage to the line. Also tree clearance work along the powerline, and transformer maintenance at Kilchoan & Torrie, including oil change and painting.

Turbine house mainenance of roof and doors, and workbench built.

John Duncanson selling his business so looking at alternatives.

Planning meeting held in May with a range of partners to help determine how we should move forward with problems with the pipeline.

Achievements 2011/12

The year was dominated by some practical problems which put planned improvements on hold:

  • In March the alternator broke down and having this refurbished put us on generator for several weeks
  • In December gales brought down power lines before and after Christmas, but our maintenance team were able to restore power within a couple of days

We did undertake the following:

  • Installed lifting beam
  • Undertook a further load test
  • Two new connections on the system

Achievements 2010/11

  • New transformer installed on Inverguseran track to allow for future developments in the area
  • Guided walk to turbine house undertaken
  • Lifting beam on order
  • Additional air release valves inserted
  • Load test on pipeline
  • Three new properties on system

2009/10 Achievements

  • load management feasibility study commissioned
  • annual newsletter produced
  • training for staff and directors undertaken
  • K10 activity week
  • new trashbox solution at dam implemented
  • new back-up generator installed
  • concrete work at top of gorge actioned
  • new work shed constructed at dam
  • guided walks undertaken to turbine house
  • efficiency improvements undertaken in turbine house
  • transformer at Glaschoille removed and replaced
  • pole at Scottas transformer replaced
  • line-clearance of trees undertaken

 

 

2008/9 Achievements

 annual newsletter produced

 

 

Achievements 2007/8

  • agreement packs distributed to local community
  • phase one of Hydrogen-production feasibility started
  • improvements to distribution system at Home Farm implemented
  • planning works for future projects

 

 

Achievements 2006

  • community presentation on PURE project undertaken
  • brief for hydrogen production started
  • improved electricity supply to the bunkhouse
  • improvement works to the dam undertaken
  • new underground cable installed from village to Talbot's field
  • we changed our name! - in October 2006 we changed from Knoydart Hydro to Knoydart Renewables
  • updated our maintenance procedures
  • reviewed our finances and set targets to repay our loan to Knoydart Foundation

Achievements 2005

  • Successfully hosted a renewable energy conference for community groups throughout the Highlands
  • Refurbished the distribution line to Grieve's, Gardner’s and Manitobas cottages
  • Refurbished the distribution line to Lavinia Cottage
  • 3 new connections installed
  • Visited the PURE project on Unst, a hydrogen based project to see whether it was applicable to Knoydart
  • Health and Safety audit completed

 

Clean, Green Hydro Power

Knoydart is not connected to the national power grid and we are extremely proud of our independent green electricity supply serving all the properties in Inverie. Knoydart Renewables Ltd (a trading subsidiary of the Knoydart Foundation) is responsible for the hydro electric system fed by Loch Bhraomisaig on the slopes of Beinn Buidhe.

pipe

turbine2

loch

trashbox

turbine1

dam

Brief History

In the 1950s, Inverie made the headlines when a village generator was put in, giving electricity to local houses ("Housewives are Thrilled" reads the headline!), by the then owners of the estate, the Crosthwaite-Eyres. This was followed in the late 1970s with the installation of the hydro electric scheme by Major Macdonald. This was a huge undertaking, given the location and access, and was completed with a huge amount of manual labour. The 80s and 90s saw turbulent times with the scheme as a succession of owners led to problems with maintenance, and disputes with the local community about access to supply. The community association raised money to purchase part of the line from the then owner, Knoydart Peninsula Limited.

When the community buyout took place in 1999, refurbishment of the scheme was a high priority. With the help of the Highland Council, feasibility work was undertaken and grant bids put in. In early 2001 the hydro scheme was too erratic so was stopped, with the village moving to the backup generator. Work on the refurbishment of the hydro finally started in August of that year and was completed nearly a year later. The refurbishment cost over £500,000 and was supported by funding from HIE, ERDF and the Knoydart Foundation. The process was assisted by the Highland Council.

The refurbishment covered the dam, pipeline and turbine and part of the distribution system, however it still left parts of the system requiring upgrading.

Present

The Knoydart Renewables board of directors is responsible for running the company and the hydro system. Current directors are:

Steve Brook (chair)

Grant Holroyd

Gwen Barrell

Frank Atherley

Operations Manager: Brad Doswell, Community Energy Scotland (CES)

CES have been contracted to oversee the operations of Knoydart Renewables to ensure they are fit for purpose and capable of generating electricity into the future.  They take over where our first Operations Manager, Kyle Smith, left off to complete his PhD and row across the Atlantic.  CES have big boots to fill!

The hydro is regularly checked and maintained by Jim Brown and Willie Dowlen, working closely with a team of independent professional engineers for any major works and repairs.  Their trusty four-legged companions, Dougal and Oliver, also play a vital role in sustaining morale during hydro work! Additional technical support is provided by Kevin, from Gilkes.  A team of trained volunteers are also on stand-by to assist when necessary.

Sustainable Fuel Source

We get our fair share of rain in Knoydart. This makes it possible for the hydro system to run continuously throught the year (as well as contributing to the breathtaking Knoydart scenery and providing our water supply).  Rain shortage is not normally an issue - however, for six weeks in the late spring of 2008 there was no rainfall, and Loch Bhraomisaig's water level fell perilously low.  During the last couple of weeks of the 'drought', the hydro was switched off at night to conserve water levels in the loch. Water levels are now checked on a regular basis.

Backup

The current method of backup electricity supply is provided by the village diesel generator, which is used during the short fortnightly maintenance periods.  On rare occassions the hydro unexpectedly shuts down and the generator can temporarily provide power to Inverie village until the system is put back on.  Unplanned shutdowns can occur for a variety of reasons, including a sudden high demand for power during a high use period, a storm or intrepid eels finding their way into the system - to their unfortunate demise.

Running the System

When people hear that we run our own hydro electric scheme for the community, it's not uncommon for them to ask whether everyone gets free electricity! If only! Everyone who connects to the system pays a unit rate of 14p. This income is used to pay for wages, maintenance, insurance and other running costs. Any surplus to date has been invested in upgrading the rest of the distribution system and the company are now paying back the investment that the Knoydart Foundation contributed.

Knoydart Renewables is run by a board of directors from the local community. Day to day running of the operations is undertaken by the Foundation office and the Renewables company employs two maintenance workers. A team of trained community volunteers also help keep the power running.  In the past we have had a lot of support from the Highland Council (up until 2006 our local councillor was an active board member) and Community Energy Scotland (previously the Highlands and Islands Community Energy Company) continue to give us a huge amount of support and advice.

Managing an electricity company is not just about keeping the supply going today - it is also about managing it in the future. Over the past two year we have seen a 30% increase in the number of buildings wanting a supply. Whilst this is good news for the community and for the company, we need to make sure we can continue to provide a supply into the future. For the past year we have had a meter installed which collects data on the amount of electricity used on a half-hourly basis. This information is downloaded on a monthly basis by one of the directors who then converts the information into a number of graphs so we can see patterns over the monthly period and compare them. Knoydart Renewables also now has equipment which allows us to monitor water levels in the dam and the amount of rainfall so that we can look at our ability to provide power in times of low water. This is crucial information for some of the long term development plans and we are grateful for the support of Fresh Futures and the Highlands and Islands Community Energy Company for helping us to make it happen.