Work has begun on the construction of an ambitious project to develop three separate hydro schemes on a picturesque Highland loch.
Developer Green Highland Renewables is behind the programme on the north shore of Loch Arkaig, near Achnacarry, about 15 miles north of Fort William.
The three mutually supporting schemes will have a total generating capacity of 2.5MW – enough to power almost 2,000 homes – linked by a six-mile private grid network.
Green Highland Renewables (GHR) chief executive officer, Richard Round, said: “Loch Arkaig is quite remote, with challenging topography, and the cost to connect each scheme to the grid individually would have been prohibitive.
“However, by linking them together with a dedicated private grid, which then ties into the local distribution network, we can make all the projects generate an economic return.
“This is an innovative and holistic approach we have already used successfully in a number of other developments.”
The project is being financed by investment management group, Triple Point, and the schemes will be constructed by MAM Contracting.
All three are due to be completed in 2015.
Two of the developments, Allt Dubh and Loch Blair, lie within the Achnacarry estate, whilst the third, Allt Cheanna Mhuir, lies partly on Forestry Commission Scotland land.
The local Achnacarry, Bunarkaig and Clunes community group will receive a royalty payment in addition to a community benefit of £5,000 per MW per year.
The group’s chairman, Richard Sidgwick, said: “Green Highland Renewables has worked with the community from the outset and kept us fully informed of progress at all stages. Any concerns that we might have had have been addressed quickly and effectively.
“We work with the estate on a variety of issues and are delighted that these projects are now a reality, and that the benefits of involvement in renewable energy will contribute to their business.”