The Allt Mor Hydro Scheme in Kinloch Rannoch, a joint venture between Dunalastair Estate and Mor Hydro financed by Clydesdale Bank, is a lot more than a means of providing renewable energy for the equivalent of 325 homes. It is also a useful educational resource and delivers free power to local people who drive electric vehicles.
Opened in November 2015, the electricity generated by the fast-flowing water of the Allt Mor burn is sold to the grid. The building is situated on a popular walking route close to the centre of Kinloch Rannoch. Although it would have been easier and cheaper to erect a standard power house, the estate and Mor Hydro believed the location offered a rare opportunity.
Adrian Loening, of Mor Hydro, explained: “When we developed the project, we thought that its location demanded an extra element, and we wanted to provide as many benefits to the community as possible. We spent a lot of time thinking about the architecture and that led on to a desire to create an educational element. We wanted to provide an asset that tells the local community and visitors about hydro and the associated technology, why we built the scheme, and what it does for the environment.”
The medium-term aim is to provide a resource for schools, colleges and educational establishments that train people in renewable technology. As a result, the building’s features include a large picture window and an interactive element that allows those on the outside to push buttons and find out what’s happening inside.
There is nowhere to buy petrol or diesel in Kinloch Rannoch. Filling up requires a 30-mile return journey to Aberfeldy or Pitlochry. As a former chairman of the Electric Vehicle Association of Scotland, Adrian proposed incorporating a free electric vehicle charger in the development. A grant application to Transport Scotland was successful and now the charger is being used by a local company that runs the school buses, as well as private electric vehicle owners.
Meanwhile, the Dunalastair Estate is keen to use the resources available to contribute to renewable targets and create a sustainable income to fund estate enterprises that include cattle and sheep farming, forestry, deer management and holiday lettings.
As the project was close to the Dunalastair Water SSSI and in a National Scenic Area, a fairly strict environmental regime was required to ensure minimum disturbance to the landscape and, particularly, the water environment.
Adrian added: “It was a very difficult project to construct. The building programme in 2015 happened to take place during one of the wettest years on record”. However, now that everything is in place, it is beginning to deliver on the range of benefits envisioned at the outset.