SCOTLAND HAS never been short of water running down its hills, so hydro schemes can be an attractive option where the landscape - and the available funding - is right.

But with renewable energy incentives about to be sharply reined in, many farmers and landowners may feel that they are too late to embrace renewable energy.

According to the organisers of the Harlaw hydro community project, based at the Harlaw reservoir, outside Balerno, near Edinbugh, this is not the case and, following their own positive experience, they are keen to share the benefits of such an investment, particularly as part of a community project.

The idea for the Harlaw hydro community project was born out of the desire for an independent green energy income for the local community, based on an upgrade of the existing micro-hydro scheme at Harlaw Reservoir.

Chairman and director of the community group, Martin Petty, said: "A number of us had the idea of taking on this project and we put it into a community consultation in 2009.

"A village trust had been set up to help the community and we were considering what we could do with the funding, which is when the idea of the hydro project came about.

"After that consultation, we set up a sub group and took it on from there, right through to the planning process to setting up a co-op which offered shares in the project."

A feasibility study in 2010 confirmed that it was a practical and profitable proposition and after four years of planning, meetings and obtaining approvals, the group were in a position to build the project in July, 2014.

Work started in September, 2014, and was completed in August, 2015, with the formal opening by the Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing, taking place on September 1, 2015.

Harlaw Hydro Ltd is now an industrial and provident society, which is also known as a bona fide co-operative society (BENCOM) and it is registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965, rather than as a company under the Companies Act.

The society has seven directors and 250 shareholders, who together raised nearly £400,000.

This share offer was launched in March, 2013, and ran until July of that year, and the profits generated by selling power to the grid will be used to sustain the scheme in the first place, pay the shareholders a dividend, and then benefit the local community.

Mr Petty commented: "In order to gather shares, we had continually pushed the project over its years of creation and, just before our share launch, we literally went bananas and advertised it wherever possible in order to get it out there.

"We had hoped to raise half of the money we required, which we could then take to a larger investor to raise the other half. In reality, we managed to raise all of the money we needed, which really shocked us all!"

The hydro scheme will replace the former micro-hydro installation, with an updated micro hydroelectric scheme that utilises the outflow from Harlaw Reservoir.

The 95kW system will take water from the dam's penstocks (reservoir dam outflows), returning flow to the dam discharge channel prior to it, forming Bavelaw Burn.

A new turbine house is located to the north east of the discharge channel, at the foot of the reservoir dam, immediately south of the disused building.

The flow in capacity factor is 44.6%, and watercourse is 57 l/s. It has a gross head of 18m, and the distance between intake and tailrace exit is 110m. The scheme will generate approximately 260,000kWh of green electricity per year - enough for approximately 100 average houses - saving 129 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

The cost of the project was broken down into these main areas:

Item totals:

Equipment (Kestral) - £156,301; civil construction (SJB) - £151,261; grid connection (SPN and SSE) - £25,205; design and contract management (Adrian Laycock) - £19,200; blacksmiths (DMH and Barr) - £6278; insurance (Insureness) - £5596; clerk of works (Clayton Fourie) - £4020; lease contract (McClure Naismith) - £3680; archaeology (Guard) - £3320; pipe bend (George Brown) - £2592; HH education (AW Design) - £2103; trees (Forest Frontiers, Cutabove) - £1975; BT phone line - £1346; SEPA - variation £83. All this brought the total expenditure to £382,960.

Commenting on the project, Mr Petty added: "We were lucky to have a great group of people on the engineer team, which was luckily made up of men who are all, or have been, engineers.

"The team included a mechanical, charted civil and electrical engineers, as well as a geologist and an architect, all of whom worked on a voluntary basis, so we were really lucky with that."

The project was the first community project in Scotland of its type, something that Mr Petty feels has set an example to other communities: "Communities across Scotland have been energised by this project, and they've come to us as a point of advice, and now a number of others are doing the same as us. It's great to see, and it's great to be that point of contact."

When discussing what he plans on doing next, Mr Petty concluded: "I want to continue working on this project for the moment.

"I would like to welcome anyone else who is interested in helping us out to please do so, as it would be greatly appreciated.

"As for other projects, we have discussed some, but at present we want to remain focused on the hydro project, and keep it running as well as it has been!"