GLENKILN HYDRO, a 500kw scheme on the Isle of Arran, has finally opened its sluices with support from a six-figure funding package from Bank of Scotland – but it was an epic struggle all the way, against both the weather and the political tide.
Developed by Lamlash farming business, J K and C Bone, and renewable energy developer, MEG Renewables, the scheme will generate energy to power 400 local homes and supply 15% of the island’s domestic electricity when running at full power.
The firm of J K and C Bone has been trading on Arran for over a century, and currently employs three members of staff on beef and sheep farms, supplying produce to local restaurants. The business has diversified into long term-residential accommodation by converting redundant farm buildings and developing new build properties to rent to local families.
To build the Glenkiln hydro facility, which is 4.2km long from top to bottom, the Bones had twelve construction workers, working over a two-year period to install the pipework on designated land, in often poor conditions, with the clock ticking towards the government's next feed-in tariff cuts.
MEG Renewables' Kenny Hunter commented: "This has been a very successful partnership between ourselves and Kenneth Bone, the owner of Glenkiln Farm. As with most hydro schemes, the full process took several years, with first discussions taking place in December 2012.
"The construction project was extremely challenging in view of constraints imposed as a consequence of land designations – SPA and SSSI – and the spectacularly bad weather experienced, particularly in the winter of 2015/16.
"The works were completed by Arran based contractors, Murchie Sand and Gravel Ltd, in some of the very toughest conditions, with the record breaking rainfall converting to almost impossible ground conditions. All the while, the clock was ticking against a deadline of completing all civil works within the SPA/SSSI by March 2016 in order to meet feed-in tariff deadlines. There were some sleepless nights!"
Mr Hunter added: "Sadly, this looks set to be our final hydro development for the time being, due to the drastic cuts to feed-in tariff levels imposed at the end of 2015. This position is being reflected across the sector."
Kenneth Bone commented: “It’s been a long journey but we are immensely proud of what we have achieved with this project. We wanted to diversify our business further and after many successful years running our farms, we saw a great opportunity in providing sustainable energy.
“Our business has been partnered with Bank of Scotland since 1911 and with its support, we were able to develop the project and construct the access track through the hills, which allows us to maintain the system and welcome visitors for guided tours.”
Bank of Scotland relationship manager Steven McGrath added: “We saw Glenkiln Hydro as an excellent opportunity to support a farm enterprise that’s using local resources – alongside the skills and experience of local contractors – to diversify. Sustainable energy is one of the most important sectors for the economy and we remain highly active in the encouragement of projects such as Glenkiln Hydro that are helping the local community and making the area self-sufficient.”