National park hydro schemes flooding in

There has been a steep increase in planning applications for hydro electricity projects in Scotland’s first national park.

So far this year nine proposals have been submitted to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority – out of a total of 26 since the park’s formal opening in 2002.

And on the 70th anniversary of the historic Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Act, the industry is worried about future cuts in financial support.

Joss Blamire, senior policy manager for Scottish Renewables, said: “Hydro remains one of our biggest contributors of renewable electricity in Scotland and has been around for more than 70 years.

How they could look - an image of part of the proposed Glen Luss project
How they could look – an image of part of the proposed Glen Luss project

“While many of the large scale sites have already been developed there is still another 100MW (megawatts) of capacity from smaller sites left to be built by the end of the decade – that’s enough to power the equivalent of 60,000 homes.

“The increase in schemes coming through the planning process more recently could be down to people learning that the levels of financial support known as Feed-in Tariffs will be cut by as much as 20% from next year.

“We would like to see a hiatus period of one year to allow for hydro projects to be built now and bring in reduced support levels in 2015.”

The latest national park applications include schemes for Invernoaden and Glenbranter, both near Strachur, as well as Glen Luss.

These three proposals are all by Hydroplan UK, and Glen Luss is the largest, as it would generate 2,000kW; the other two would produce 500kW each.

In total the three would produce less than a quarter of the power aimed for by the five turbines of Cove Community Wind Farm, which is due to be decided by planners in September.

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Documents submitted to national park planners state that there is significant wildlife in the three areas, including:

  • Otters – all three sites
  • Red squirrels – Glenbranter and Invernoaden
  • Golden eagles – Glenbranter and Invernoaden
  • Black grouse – Glen Luss

The developers submit plans to address the effect on wildlife and the environment however, stating in all three cases: “Although there are some local environmental impacts associated with the proposal, the mitigation measures will reduce these to a level of low significance.

“Given the contribution to Scotland’s renewable energy targets and the associated carbon emissions reduction, this scheme offers siginificant national benefits.”

Each project is expected to create 12-18 jobs during the construction period, and Hydroplan say local businesses will benefit from ‘the increase in construction staff and visitors in the area.

Below is a slideshow of ‘before and after’ pictures showing the likely impact at Glen Luss which unlike the other two is a ‘run of river’ project.

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Full details of all the applications are available at the national park website. Reference numbers are 2013/0121/DET (Glen Luss), 2013/0170/DET (Invernoaden) and 2013/0172/DET (Glenbranter).

Other national park sites which have seen proposals for hydro schemes so far this year include Milton of Callander, Keltie Water, Inveronich near Lochgoilhead, Ledard Farm near Aberfoyle, Inverchaggernie and Ledcharrie farms at Crianlarich, Lochearnhead, Loch Katrine and Milton of Buchanan.

In March the authority approved a Hydroplan run of the river project for Glen Douglas.

© The Lochside Press 2013