A Combined US$11.1 Million Will Finance Two Small Hydroelectric Projects in the Scottish Highlands

CRF Hydro Power Ltd., a Scottish hydro developer and operator, has completed negotiations with Clydesdale Bank Plc. to receive US$5.83 million to rehabilitate and upgrade the Garbhaig small hydroelectric project from 915 kW to 2 MW. The scheme is located in a rural area on Loch [Lake] Garbhaig in the Scottish Highlands in the Wester Ross area.

Construction started on the original project in the Slattadale Forest during 1988. The project became partially operational in 1991, and additional construction continued until the project was completed in 1993, according to reports. The scheme will comprise a weir and inlet on Loch Garbhaig, with water traveling through a 1,500-meter-long underground penstock to the powerhouse immediately above Victoria Falls. After harnessing the flow, a tailrace will return water used for generation to Abhainn Garbhaig, a short river that flows from Loch Garbhaig to nearby Loch Maree.

As part of the rehabilitation and upgrade, the Garbhaig powerhouse is being relocated downhill. Developers said moving the powerhouse downhill will allow generating capacity to more than double, providing enough electricity to power approximately 1,800 homes. An exact date of completion for the project is not immediately available.

1-MW Merk hydroelectric project

Clydesdale Bank support will also help CRF Hydro and its three partners: MEG Renewables; the Richard Grubb Family, who co-own the Garbhaig project with CRF Hydro; and Here We Are, a local community organization. Together, the groups will develop the 1-MW Merk project in Glen [Valley] Fyne, which is scheduled for commissioning later this year.

The scheme is being constructed at an estimated cost of US$5.3 million and is expected to deliver 3.3 GWh per year using water from the River Fyne near the village of Cairndow in the Argyll and Butte Council areas. Water from the 2.57-square-kilometer catchment area is expected to provide enough flow to the powerhouse to generate at its maximum designed capacity for about four hours.

The catchment area is at the top of Loch Fyne and is divided into two parts. In the upper portion of the catchment area, two leats (manmade watercourse systems) will supply water to the intake of a small header pond from its 360 m height. Water will flow from the header pond through a penstock, south to the powerhouse.

The lower portion of Loch Fyne catchment area will utilize a second set of leats and route water from its intake through a second penstock that connects to the header pond penstock. During generation cycles, water from both penstocks will send flow to the powerhouse. During non-generation cycles, operators will divert water at the intersection of the second penstock from the second portion of the catchment area to refill the header pond.

The Merk powerhouse is at the base of the catchment area hill and its tailrace returns all water to the River Fyne.

In 2011, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency granted a Controlled Activity Relations License for the project and the Argyll and Bute Council Planning Committee gave its permission for the scheme.

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Gregory B. Poindexter, MA, serves an associate editor for PennWell Hydro Group, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Poindexter has been a full-time journalist since 2005. Prior to joining PennWell, Poindexter owned and operated a communications company that produces organizational imagery. He holds a master's degree in mass communications from Oklahoma State University

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