LOCAL business have been benefiting from involvement in a soon-to-be commissioned hydro scheme by Milton of Buchanan.
David Allan Groundworks carried out exploratory work for the Burn of Mar hydro scheme; Connich Dyking has resinstated the dykes and fences along the three-and-a-half kilometre route of the scheme’s main pipeline and Buchanan Construction are putting up the building that will house the generator and turbine.
“We’re hoping to create further opportunities for local business both in the run up to commissioning of the scheme in October, and once it’s up and running,” says Jamie Graham who’s managing the project on his father’s – the Duke of Montrose – land.
Telling G63 about the scheme, Jamie’s quick to acknowledge support from the community: “Buchanan Community Council supported our planning application – and the positive feedback from residents in the area has also played an important part in helping us get this project off the ground.”
“I’ve worked with renewables since leaving university but in other parts of the world, so the scheme was a great opportunity for me to bring what I’ve been doing back home to Buchanan,” says Jamie. “And although that’s what brought me back to the estate, I’ve become very much involved across the board and have also recently taken over on the farming side.”
Plans for the scheme kicked of in February 2011 but, as Jamie points out, it’s not a new concept for the area.
“There was a mill there 300 years ago that was operational until the 1960s,” he says.
“You can still see the old lades -– the channels bringing in the water from the Mar burn and the other burn that comes down through the Milton field. The power house for the hydro scheme is situated by one of the old lades, so it’s all very much a reinvention of something that’s been there for a while.”
In the early 1980s the Duke saw potential for a small hydro scheme to power heating in the family home but the ideas were never developed.
“We had a small weir in the burn at the bottom of the garden and took measurements every day, but it was deemed not to be a flyer….until the new feed-in tariff regime made it financially feasible to consider a scheme,” says Jamie.
A Czech-made pelton turbine and generator will share a vertical axis to generate power with a peak capacity of 500 kilowatts.
“The turbine has a series of cups like the old water wheel – but it lies on it’s side – and will spin at 750 revolutions a minute,” explains Jamie. “We have three Czech engineers coming to install the turbine for three weeks in September.
“There’ll be times in the summer when it’s not running at all – and plenty of time when there’ll be way more water than it can handle. Generally it’ll only be taking a fraction of the water out the burn and re-introducing it further down stream.”
Jamie and his father hope the private scheme will help diversify and underpin the viability of the estate, allowing them to look after the estate buildings and landscape and ride out the volatility of the farming world.
“It’s all part of a vision for long term sustainability,” says Jamie. ”These are really good projects because they provide the opportunity for a long term and diversified source of revenue into the rural economy.
“Agriculture has it’s challenges – and tourism has it’s cycles. Hydro helps balance things out – if it’s a wet year from a farming perspective at least there should be compensation on the other side.
“Ultimately schemes like this are driving revenue and economic activity into rural areas that are otherwise dependent on subsidies or more volatile sources of revenue.”
• Click the images below to see bigger versions and scroll through our gallery (photos: Jamie Graham)