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Highland Council unveils eco power plan

Artist impression - River Ness Hydro Scheme
Artist impression - River Ness Hydro Scheme

Highland Council has lodged plans for a hydro power scheme in Inverness that could provide electricity for three city landmarks.

Sitting on the Torvean weir close to the new West Link road, the River Ness hydro-scheme is a project which would generate power for its nearby sites, Bught floral nursery, the Highland Archive Centre and Inverness Leisure.

Requiring little water, the scheme could provide a model for more council projects, like powering remote schools.
Visitors will be allowed access inside the structure to view the turbine at work, while at night the building will sparkle with LED lights.

Kinetic tiles will convert footsteps into electrical energy which will power some of the lights.

A wide platform required for a crane during construction will afterwards be developed into a public viewing area with educational information boards.

Led by the council’s energy and sustainability team, the hydro-scheme aims to produce 600,000kw of energy per year and generate income of around £120,000.

A council spokeswoman said: “The scheme will generate income and savings for the council and provide future proofing against potential increased utility costs by suppliers.

“If we generate it ourselves, the future increases will not have the same impact.”

The development will also help the council meet national targets for renewable energy and save 258 tonnes per megawatt hour of carbon each year.

The running costs are expected to be around £15,000.No jobs will be created as the turbine will be operated remotely, but there will be a need for maintenance at the site.

The river, its aquatic life and Nessie mythology inspired the design by local artist Claire Maclean.

A planning statement by consultants Amec Foster Wheeler Environment & Infrastructure UK Ltd states: “The materials and form were chosen to encourage people to interact with the waterside and the technology generating power from it.

“Abstraction of these visual themes was important to create a design that will stand the test of time. The organic curves and ambiguous patterns allow visitors to interpret the form however they like, creating a neutral space that everyone can enjoy.

“Due to the power-producing nature of the hydro scheme, it seemed fitting to incorporate electrical aspects into the design.

“As night falls, the structure reveals itself in a new way through a pattern of LED lights, akin to the bioluminescence of a deep sea creature.”

The slow speed of the turbine means fish will be able to pass through safely. Councillor Allan Henderson, chairman of the council’s Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee said: “This modern, innovative project provides an excellent opportunity for the council to generate income and renewable energy and make savings.

The Archimedes Screw is a fascinating piece of engineering using proven technology which in itself should be a feature of significant interest and may hopefully inspire young scientists of tomorrow.”

It is estimated construction would take approximately four to six months.

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