Highlands hydroelectric scheme officially opens
Hydro Ness, an award winning hydroelectric scheme with an interpretive visitor experience, has now opened to the public bringing energy and excitement to the River Ness.
The site was officially opened yesterday by the cabinet secretary for net zero, economy and transport, Michael Matheson.
He said: “Scotland has the resources, the people and the ambition to deliver on our net zero targets - for the benefit of communities up and down the country and beyond.
“The Hydro Ness is a perfect example of how small-scale hydroelectric schemes can deliver a big and lasting impact. The scheme is not only an important step in the journey for Inverness becoming carbon neutral, but also in supporting a fair and just energy transition which benefits everyone.”
The official opening was graced by an exhilarating performance of a specially commissioned song, ‘The Power of the River’ which has been created to celebrate the Hydro Ness. The song, written and produced by renowned local artists Hamish Napier and Duncan Chisholm, was performed by Ceilidh Trail and proved a unique and enjoyable aspect of the opening.
Hydro Ness, which utilises historical infrastructure from a disused hydro scheme dating back to the 1920s and is situated on the banks of the River Ness directly adjacent to the Holm Mills bridge, is an Archimedes screw project generating electricity for the nearby valued community asset Inverness Leisure Centre. The flagship scheme is expected to generate over 500,000 kWh of renewable energy each year, resulting in both financial and carbon savings for Highland Council.
The site has also benefitted from the addition of high quality and completely bespoke interpretive content. The interpretive experience, designed by Mather & Co, will help articulate key messages relating to important topics including environment and ecology, renewable energy, and climate change and will be a welcome addition to a high footfall area of the city and will help strengthen the river as an attraction.
Councillor Karl Rosie, chair of The Highland Council’s Climate Change Committee said: “Hydro Ness is without doubt a flagship for sustainability and has reinforced how valuable an asset the River Ness is, especially when it comes to renewable generation.
“Not only does it look fantastic but very importantly, it is already helping to offset our reliance on grid supplied electricity and reducing our carbon footprint. This underlines our climate change ambitions as we work towards achieving net zero.
“As well as the eye-catching structure, an important element of Hydro Ness is the on-site interpretation. The messaging covers key topics such as how Hydro Ness works, the different ecology found around the River Ness, and our changing climate. All of which will help to create a new welcoming place for locals and visitors to spend time enjoying.”
In addition, the site itself will act as a hub for STEM learning with resources for school classes developed by the Science Skills Academy. The SSA, has also produced a number of educational animations which will enrich the learning experience on site.
As well as the SSA, Hydro Ness has worked in partnership with a number of organisations including High Life Highland, Visit Inverness Loch Ness, University of the Highlands and Islands, SSE Renewables, Highlands and Island Enterprise (HIE), Zero Waste Scotland and Salix Finance Ltd.
The opening comes after the news that the project has been short-listed for the Best Climate Action or Decarbonisation Initiative category of the APSE Service Awards 2022.
The Provost of Inverness, Councillor Glynis Sinclair was delighted to be at the official opening to welcome guests.
She said: “How very fitting to have the talented young musicians perform ‘Power of the River’ as Hydro Ness is all about harnessing the power of nature and science so they can work alongside each other to provide energy and benefit our environment.
“I want to pay tribute to staff from our Transformation, Property and Climate Change teams for their dedication to what has been a very ambitious project. I also want to sincerely thank all our partners for their valuable support. Hydro Ness clearly shows how much can be achieved by working in close partnership and I am sure the experience has been very rewarding for everyone involved.
“Hydro Ness is a fascinating piece of engineering and technology and I am sure it will prove to be a very popular attraction that will inspire young scientists of tomorrow and encourage us all to think more about how we can make positive changes in our lives.”