A north landowner has thrown his support behind a controversial hydro scheme on the banks of Loch Ness after it was approved by Scottish Government ministers.
The approval of the Red John hydro scheme, near Dores, comes after months of deliberation following a public local inquiry last year.
It was previously rejected on two separate occasions by Highland councillors.
The scheme’s construction is thought to be worth £550 million to the local economy.
Approximately 700 direct and indirect jobs are expected with improvements also to be carried out on local infrastructure.
The scheme works by pumping water from the loch to a storage pond on top of a hill at times when there is excess energy on the grid. At times of higher demand, the water flows back down through a hydro generator, producing 450MW of energy.
Developer ILI said it is expected to save more than 45 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution over the course of its lifespan.
Iain Cameron, the owner of the land where the hydro scheme will be built, has said he believes Red John will be “good for Dores, for Scotland and even for the planet”.
Mr Cameron said he hopes the scheme can benefit the local community, like other alternative energy projects nearby have done.
He said: “Storage projects such as this are absolutely necessary to make sense of the proliferation of wind turbines, especially in this area, but now also being installed offshore.
“We need to be looking at multiple ways of generating and storing electricity and, at the moment, this appears to be one of the least harmful.”
Conditions imposed under construction include managing woodland by planting more native tree species and enhancing existing natural areas.
Paths and access routes are to be improved, along with plans for community access to a jetty, which will be constructed in the early part of the development.
Mr Cameron hopes the employment opportunities can help in the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and that the hydro scheme will serve to “inspire a generation of civil engineers”.
He added: “Undoubtedly, there will be noticeable traffic and noise during some phases of the construction period, but much has been agreed to mitigate this, and the long-term benefits will be transformational.
“I am in the age group which will be affected by any construction disturbance for a significant proportion of the rest of their lives, but I appreciate that the benefits could last for 100 years or more.
“I think we have to see past a period of personal inconvenience. My family have been part of this parish for centuries, and I would not have entered into these negotiations if
I didn’t think that, in the long run, Dores will be a much better place to live.”
Mark Wilson, chief executive of clean energy developer ILI Group, said: “We are delighted that the Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson has approved this project.
“This will help pave the way for hundreds of millions of pounds of investment and hundreds of new jobs in the area and will be another major step in Scotland’s ongoing journey to becoming a leader in renewable energy.
“This project alone will save more than 45 million tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime.”
Mr Matheson said: “As we add more renewable electricity generation across Scotland, investing in pumped hydro storage will be key to balancing our electricity demand with supply and keeping the system secure, as well as creating high-quality, green jobs and enabling a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.”