Today we launched the tender to appoint a consultant for Phase 1 of Hydro Scheme.  Supported by Climate Challenge Fund.

In deciding on the best renewable energy option in the Community Forest, 2 preliminary feasibility studies were undertaken.  The study relating to wind power identified that the most viable site was outside the community forest boundaries.  There were also key issues relating to the SSSI upland habitats where over 70 breeding bird species have been recorded.  This left the community with Hydro as the only choice.  The preliminary feasibility study for Hydro Schemes looked at a number of sites; Balnakailly was the only site that was considered economically viable.

The Balnakailly Small-Hydro Scheme Design Study will conduct site, technical and environmental assessments and obtain relevant consents; along with a detailed design & specification for the scheme.  This will include conducting all necessary surveys required by statutory consultees: – SEPA, SNH, WOSaS and Argyll & Bute Council.  These will include otter survey, fish ecology survey, hydrology spot gauging, hydrology peripheral survey, and archaeological impact survey, and any additional reporting required to meet consent requirements.  The environmental studies are critical due to the SSSI status of the land surrounding the scheme.  Budget estimates for the hydro-scheme have been made with support of Community Energy Scotland and advice from consultants who completed the initial feasibility study.

The aim is that the hydro scheme will generate electricity directly for use at the proposed developments in the forest.  Additional income from selling the electricity to the grid would be used for reinvestment in community projects. 

The hydro scheme is pivotal in the overall development of our sustainability strategy which will provide a range of information, awareness and practical example to residents of Bute and beyond through use of green technologies of which the main objective is to encourage greater community understanding of renewable energy practices.  We would seek to reduce CO2 emission generally in 3 ways:-

  1. To change behaviour through leading by example, sharing our experience, and promoting hydro-electricity as an option for sustainable power supply
  2. To generate renewable electricity which will reduce the grid electricity use by the new buildings and infrastructure in the forest
  3. To provide a sustainable income stream to support other related community projects

 We will seek to collaborate with Towards Zero Carbon Bute, Fyne Futures Bio Fuel, and other local projects to gradually improve the current mix of energy provision to householders and businesses.  This will increase the share of renewable energy used on the island and help reduce Bute’s carbon footprint. 

It is the intention that islanders will benefit from sustainable use of “their” Balnakailly Burn in three ways:

  1. A feeling of well-being in contributing to a reduction in pollution
  2. A sense of self-worth in the knowledge that they are generating income to be used on other community projects.
  3. The knowledge that the Forest developments will be carbon neutral in their operation.

 Members of the Community who do not directly benefit from the hydro-electric installation, can still participate by switching to a green tariff electricity supplier.  Whilst this information is, of course, publicly available at the moment we will endeavor to increase take-up by use of personal networks and community contacts of TZCB and BCLC to encourage more people to switch to a green tariff.