It’s been half a century since any large scale conventional hydro project has been built on Scottish soil. But then came Glendoe.
Situated in the hills above Loch Ness, the Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) scheme is the biggest hydro facility since the 75MW Erochty station opened in Perthshire in 1957.
Work began on the high-profile project in February 2006 and the scheme started operating at the beginning of 2009. However, operations were halted by a rockfall in August 2009. SSE expect to be back up and running again in 2012.
When it returns to service, Glendoe’s mighty turbine will be capable of producing 100MW of energy - enough to power over 50,000 homes.
Glendoe is the sort of project packed with landmark moments, such as the completion of five mile headrace tunnel. Shouldering most of this work was the tunnel boring machine – christened Eliza Jane by school children from nearby Fort Augustus.
She began her epic journey through the Monadliath Mountains in September 2006 emerging 18 months later having finished the job well ahead of schedule.
One of the more complex tasks was the lining of the headrace tunnel, where 250m of concrete and 85m of stell lining was put in place to provide a seal between the power cavern and the headrace tunnel and which needs to be tough enough to withstand the huge pressure of water from the reservoir.
At 600m, not only does Glendoe have the highest head of any hydro station in the UK – allowing it to generate more energy per cubic metre of water than any other facility in the country – it will also be the most efficient hydro electric scheme using water as its fuel and avoiding the production of carbon dioxide, a gas associated with global warming.
Yet for all the impressive statistics, Glendoe is, for the most part, largely hidden from view. The only part of the scheme to be seen from any public road is a water outlet on the shore of Loch Ness and even this is being built to blend in with the natural landscape.
Throughout the scheme SSE has worked closely with a number of agencies including Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to ensure local wildlife, flora and fauna continue to enjoy protection.
To find out more about Glendoe visit SSE.