Waste from a Caithness distillery could be turned into gas to fuel journeys along the North Coast 500.
Renewable energy firm Abbey Ecosse, which is based at Forss Business Park near Thurso, wants to build a powerful combined heat and power plant on the site using pot ale and spent lees from the Old Pulteney distillery in Wick.
The company has asked Highland Council for its opinion on the scheme, which would ultimately result in the power generated being used to charge electric vehicles.
Neil Robertson, Abbey Ecosse’s managing director, explained that using the waste products in this way creates water discharge which is 95% clean, avoiding problems in the environment.
He added: “A new electric vehicle would charge in seven or eight minutes.
“It would still work for older vehicles, just taking longer.
“We’d make it open to the public, offering a great opportunity for North Coast 500 tourists.”
Under the proposals, the by-products would be brought from the distillery to an anaerobic digester to generate bio-gas for what is described as a flexible energy network on the site.
The gas would be used to fuel the vehicles that bring the co-products from the Wick premises, as well as powering the site.
Currently, the distillery’s whisky co-products are exported to use as fertiliser on agricultural land.
Abbey Ecosse says the proposed scheme complements the whisky industry’s commitment to renewable energy development and the de-carbonisation of whisky production.
The company envisages that deliveries to the site would take place over two days per week, involving a total of eight journeys.
The digester could also use by-products from the dairy industry, and Abbey Ecosse is in conversation with European companies about how they might make use of the technology.
Mr Robertson said: “The key is the integration of technologies. It’s the kind of innovation that Scotland could lead the world in.”
Scottish ministers have agreed in principle to part-fund the scheme, due to its environmentally friendly merits.
Ultra-fast charging for electric vehicles would also boost the North Coast 500’s green credentials and boost firms like Inverness-based Ecosse EV, which rents out Teslas for its “electric powered road trip”.