rushing river water

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Post in Community Energy by Ewan Bush
A good opportunity to get out of the house, join us for an outdoor, socially distanced meeting.

Exploring Community Owned Electricity Generation

When:       Tuesday, 21 July 2020
Time:        5.30pm
Where:     Garve Hotel Car Park Grounds - you can't miss us!!

The Garve & District Energy Group continue to explore opportunities and options for community owned electricity generation. Ullapool, Applecross and many more places now have wonderful community owned schemes up and running, generating income and power for their communities.  It's time to see what we can do for Garve & District!

In your response to our annual Energy Group surveys and from your attendance at Energy Group events, you have consistently told us you would like to see a community energy project in place.  When we asked you last year  “should GDCE continue to explore the viability of opportunities for community owned energy generation projects?” 95 out of a 101 households who returned the survey form replied YES, you should.

Over the past few years we’ve looked at a number of possible sites within our community boundary, (mostly on burns within Forestry land offered for development under the ‘Forest Renewables’ scheme), and sought expert opinion about their potential, none of which gave us the confidence to progress to detailed project planning.

More recently, we’ve explored the possibility of using the Black Water river its self, involving Proterra, a local hydro expert and installer to give us an initial view on viability and the sort of system that is now generating electricity further downstream on the Brahan Estate. This has proved to be more encouraging and were it not for current Covid restrictions, this would have been the subject of the first of six ‘community workshops’ that had been planned within our ‘Green for Go’ project, funded by our ‘Investing in Communities grant.

So please take a look at the video of our ‘walk about’ with Proterra at Black Water, come and join us outdoors for a community meeting - give us your feedback and ask questions.

There is potential to seek external funding, to consider the environmental impact and give us an initial cost/benefit analysis before progressing a development at Black Water, and of course we need full community support to take this forward.

Ways to feedback: -

  • Join us on the 21st
  • Comment below
  • Use the Contact Button to email us
  • Telephone us
  • Write to us

Questions & Comments

Have an opinion on this topic? Leave a comment here. Here's what others have been saying...


Steve Jones said:

Thanks Energy Group for doing this.

It sounds promising enough to take it to the next stage of assessing the financail and practical feasiblity of putting such a scheme in place. 

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Moira Harris said:

A huge thank you to the Energy Group for all your work on this. The video shows the real potential of this project.

Reducing community energy costs is a high priority in the Development Plan i.e., there is strong support from the community. Future proofing, investing in sustainable legacy projects for future generations, is vital. 

You've given the community lots of information and ample opportunity to respond. An application for funding for a feasibility study is the next step - go for it!

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Steve Jones said:

Thanks to the Energy Group for the meeting and information on Tuesday evening. It was fascinting to hear about the potential to generate elctricity from a hydro scheme on the river. And about the uses to which such electricity could be put to benefit the community eg  - selling electricity to the grid  - providing power to homes - providing power to a community bus or other vehicles at a profit This is part of the development plan agreed by the community, And as you have said, previous surveys have shown overwhelming support for this project - both giving you a strong community mandate.  You propose two investigations to see if this project is viable:

  1. An envirnmental impact and cost benefit study
  2. A reivew by SSE of how and when they will increase the capaciy of the local electricuty network

And you made the point clearly that we have to be on the front foot with these schmese to be able to take advantage of benefticial government schemes as they ermerge. So I feel it is essential that we press ahead with all urgeny with these investagations funded by LCT as necesaary.  

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Ewan Bush said:

Thank you everyone for coming along to the public meeting in Garve last week and to all the supportive comments above. I have now lodged an EOI (Expression of Interest) for CARES funding to carry out an Environmental and Cost Benefit Study. Additional funding may be required to pay for the SSE costing and feasibility study into grid restraints and subsequent connection charges. I am also aware of the Black Water Wild Life Groups concerns regarding the diverse spiecies of plant and wild life in the area and how they may be affected by the development of a small scale Hydro on the river. Finding solutions to these concerns and mitigating any impact is key to the viability of the project. Will keep you all updated as to progress.

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Jean Bailey said:

Hi All,

I wrote this comment on on the 3rd.August, but does not seem to appear anywhere. so this is me copying it word for word.

I would like to ask, has any surveying among the community taken place, as to whether the community would like a hydro scheme alongside the rive Blackwater, before thouands of pounds are spent on a feasibility survey. I know there is government money available, but there is always a shortfall, which will have to be made up from windfarm funds.

Hydro schemes are not maintenance free and as there is no capacity on the national grid, this will be costing the community for years ahead.

This is a very beautiful walk and what ever disturbance is made, will not be to the benefit of the river.

Has anyone asked how SEPA feels about this, just a genral enquiry about future use, not part of a feasibility study?

Just one last point, hydro schemes like wind farms do not last for ever neither does their income.

Jean Bailey

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Tina Hartley said:

Thank you for your comments Jean.  Having looked over the website activity logs I can see that you logged in on 3 August 2020, at which point you sent the details above, via the community hub email, to TG&DDC – thank you.  I forwarded your email to John Fenwick, Chair of the Garve & District Energy Group and I am aware of the communication which has taken place between yourself and John.

I will now ask John to post his response to these initial comments and thank you again for taking an interest in this proposed community project.

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John Fenwick said:

Good morning, Jean

Thank you for posting your questions and comments regarding the Energy Group exploring opportunities and options for Community owned electricity generation.

In the order that these questions and comments were raised by you, we would respond as follows:

Para 1: The mandate to pursue opportunities for income generation through community owned renewable energy generation projects has been subject to multiple community consultation exercises and ‘surveys’ over recent years and as a result, sits as a key priority within the Community Development Plan.

As noted in the post ‘Community owned Hydro’ made on Garve.Org on the 13th July,

and having explored many other possible sites within our community boundary, as soon as we identified more encouraging potential on the Black Water river itself, we shared this with the community (in the form of a video), set up a ‘Covid safe’ community engagement (outdoor) Q&A meeting and invited comments and feedback from those who could not attend (which we assume has given rise to your questions?).

On balance, the questions and comments we received at the meeting and from written feedback, supports the proposal that we progress to a more detailed ‘Environmental Impact and Cost & Benefit Assessment’, in order to give the whole community a much clearer picture on which to base any decision to progress a project on this stretch of the Black Water River.

On your point about the funding of such a study, we are indeed seeking to capitalise on the ever growing focus and financial support available from the Scottish and UK Governments for exactly this type of work (within Communities) and would note that any cost giving rise to a call on ‘community funds’, will always be factored in to ensuring that there is indeed a ‘return on investment’ that can benefit our community in both financial and wellbeing outcomes both during and beyond the life of our windfarm funding.

Para 2: The point you make here is precisely why we need the ‘study’ referred to above before undertaking a more detailed consultation with the community on if and how we progress this, or any other ‘legacy scale’ project in our community.

We should and will not seek to reflect our (or individual community member) initial ‘opinions’ in moving capital/large scale projects forward, that are not properly informed, based on the best available ‘facts and information’ and ‘balanced’ between the resultant for’s and against’ within our community.

Para 3 : We fully accept that the stretch of the Black Water river between the Silver and Wades Bridge is indeed ‘beautiful’ and within an area that is used (perhaps by too few of us) for walks and the natural wild life environment that it offers. Again, this is why we need any study to balance the ‘Environmental Impact’ against any longer term ‘cost’ benefits and feedback from the ‘Black Water Group’ already forwarded to us will feed into this more detailed study.

Para 4 : We have indeed contacted SEPA and had some initial written feedback from them, but again, the more detailed study would engage more fully with them and other agencies (as outlined in the video and information already shared with the community).

Para 5 : Again, we would refer you to the closing statement under Para 1 above, only adding that all available data on the expected lifespan of past and current hydro schemes of the scale and type most likely to be possible on the Black Water River (including one recently commissions downstream on the Brahan Estate), exceeds the cessation of our current community benefit funding by some 15+ years.

We trust that our response above answers your current questions and concerns and can assure you that these will be retained and included alongside all other feedback from the community and made available to any further study commissioned in connection with this project.

The Garve and District Energy Group

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