And the potential loss of some very good paddling (too hard for me but classic creeking territory I’m told).
Nowhere is safe. The character of the Scottish mountains is changing very quickly now.
Did the scheme that affects the water supply of the Grampian Mountaineering Club's hut get approval?
I'm with the school kids on this, thank goodness the Scottish government is taking climate change seriously.
I'm also very hacked off with mountaineering Scotland's attitude to this, and wind farms.
There's a run of river hydro scheme in Glen Sguaib (the walk in for routes on Being Dearg). Last time I was there I had a read of the information board and was surprised to see that, at the time of construction, that scheme was expected to meet the power needs of nearby Ullapool.
It just seemed so tiny...one small weir for the intake, a building nearer to the road that was no bigger than a small bungalow and that was it. Plus a couple of rough tracks, one or two bridges (all within commercial forestry), for all I know they were there already for the forestry.
I've no opinion on the Glen Etive schemes; I'm not informed enough and don't know the area that well. But if there were more schemes like the Glen Sguaib one, I'd take that over the fossil fuel and wind turbine alternatives any day.
Preserving areas of outstanding natural beauty is maybe more important to future generations than small scale renewable projects that will make no impact on climate change.
You any idea of the hoops the hydro developers had to jump though to get permission?
And, to be honest, the last thing Glen Etive needs is the reputation of being an area of outstanding national beauty. Soon as the dafties banned camping along Loch Lomond Glen Etive started getting hammered by wild campers leaving gash behind. There isn't the infrastructure there for bucket loads of tourists, there's a single track, dead end road with a few huts (including immaculate Inverphaolin,) the wonderful venture Scotland bothy, the estate and some houses. The more people scared away because of the rampant destruction caused by the hydro schemes the better.
We also release midgies and ticks there from early May on. Horrible place. Leave well alone. That heelhook on Spartan Slab is at least 5b, the route's a sandbag, go to Glen Nevis instead, less midgies and no two hour boggy walk in either.
> Did the scheme that affects the water supply of the Grampian Mountaineering Club's hut get approval?
> You any idea of the hoops the hydro developers had to jump though to get permission?
Yes I do have an idea of the hoops they had to go through, £40k bung to the locals and a slight rewrite of two of the schemes.
Quite so Erik. I have paddled most of the Etive many times and one or two of the smaller ditches that run into it. It has been one of the crown jewels of Scottish white water for decades. A very sad day indeed for much more than just the loss of yet another beautiful bit of wild river. Tragic.
What is the projected output of these dams and how many offshore wind turbines would it take to match or exceed?
I can't remember where or how accurate but I read that the output could be matched by a single offshore turbine.
> I'm with the school kids on this, thank goodness the Scottish government is taking climate change seriously.
> I'm also very hacked off with mountaineering Scotland's attitude to this, and wind farms.
I'm also standing with the school kids, and everyone else who is concerned about climate change.
But climate change doesn't mean that this specific scheme has to be built, just that we have to get better at renewable energy generation generally. So I'm also with the people who are dismayed and upset that yet another beautiful place is going to be sacrificed for the enrichment of a few already wealthy people.
> Did the scheme that affects the water supply of the Grampian Mountaineering Club's hut get approval?
The original Allt Fhaolain scheme was amended at the end of last year to supposedly reduce the impact on the hut. But I've not seen any comments from the club as to whether they agree.
> I'm also standing with the school kids, and everyone else who is concerned about climate change.
> But climate change doesn't mean that this specific scheme has to be built, just that we have to get better at renewable energy generation generally. So I'm also with the people who are dismayed and upset that yet another beautiful place is going to be sacrificed for the enrichment of a few already wealthy people.
What's even more annoying is that, as far as I am aware (and I've read a lot of the proposals), there is no provision for the landowner or develoiper to place the cost of decommissioning the scheme if it becomes redundant at some point in the future. That will have to be done at public cost sadly.
> But if there were more schemes like the Glen Sguaib one, I'd take that over the fossil fuel and wind turbine alternatives any day.
With ROR schemes, fossil fuel power stations are still required as backup for times of drought or extreme cold or just normal reduced river levels towards the end of the summer. And as with wind turbines, this backup cannot be powered on and off at will, it runs all the time. But since most of these backup power stations are south of the border, the Scottish government gets to pretend they are doing something to reduce climate change while having little actual impact but gradually destroying one of the things that brings visitors.
Do you seriously think that a scheme like this can have a significant effect on climate change? If the only way of combating climate change is to destroy our few remaining wild places then we have already lost the battle.
Sacrificed? The entire glen? I had no idea it was going to be so bad. It's this over exaggeration that gets 650 letters and unsympathetic audience.
> Do you seriously think that a scheme like this can have a significant effect on climate change? If the only way of combating climate change is to destroy our few remaining wild places then we have already lost the battle.
If any action to combat climate change had to be "significant", then there probably isn't much point in any of us trying to do anything! I have seen a few of these small scale hydro systems in a few places around Scotland and they have always seemed quite sympathetic to the surrounding landscape and didn't detract from my enjoyment of the day at all. Talking about the "destruction" of Glen Etive seems like needless hyperbole to me.
You wouldn't say that if you were a canoeist. And presumably you've either not been to any of the schemes that resulted in new bulldozed tracks right into the heart of the mountains, or you have but don't see that as a problem.
Anyway, it might be different if any of these schemes had an real impact on climate change, but they don't, they all require the backup of fossil fuel plants.
I certainly agree there is an argument to be had about the utility of the schemes vs where they are placed, I'm keen that we don't make the same mistakes we have in the past and am uneasy about these developments in glen Etive, however the point about backup generation is misleading.
Pre renewables taking off around 40% of uk power was from gas based power stations which are being increasingly adapted for load balancing rather than just baseload. The ramp time for modern gas plants is short (~8mins to 1hr dependent on type) and the baseline to hot start from relatively low (~10-15%). Given how good our short term met forecasts are this ramp time is plenty short enough to smooth out demand and ensure full use of renewable capacity over the near term. So yes we have to keep fossil fuel capacity but no this doesn't mean that renewables aren't saving carbon:
As we move to a renewable dominated production there are also various demand management and smart grid options, as well as increased incentive for storage schemes which should help the situation, expect appliances, car chargers, and factories which kick into action when its windy. I'm sure we won't entirely get rid of fossil fuel plants in the foreseeable future but we should certainly be running them more and more sparingly which with gas is perfectly feasible. This review paper has a brief overview of many of the proposed solutions if you want more detail:
Review of energy system flexibility measures to enable high levels of variable renewable electricity - Lund et al 2015 Renewable and Sustainable Energy Review
Greener energy production is one of the areas the UK is actually doing ok in on mitigating carbon output so please don't disregard it Transport on the other hand...
I've been about glen affric for the last couple of years where they are having a couple of hydro schemes put in. It's very messy during construction, but to get sepa signoff it's got to be tidy after. These will fit into the landscape like those before after 10 years.
I don't agree with you if you think the hydro schemes down Glen Affric are easy on the eye. They may be "tidy" but they certainly come at very great cost to the landscape. Take the hydro up Allt Coire Leachavie on the north side of Loch Affric for example. That really is a horrendous eyesore. And the motorway they have bulldozed up the old path up Gleann nam Fiadh. Again, very, very intrusive.
I'd go as far as to say that the schemes down Glen Affric are a prime example of just how much of negative impact these small scale schemes are having on the landscape.
> You wouldn't say that if you were a canoeist.
Of course, I was quite clear that it was a subjective statement. Whatever you build, and wherever you build it, someone will be adversely affected and any energy policy will have to be a compromise.
> Anyway, it might be different if any of these schemes had an real impact on climate change, but they don't, they all require the backup of fossil fuel plants.
Presumably the reserve capacity doesn't need to be online all the time. I would imagine that hydro is relatively predictable over the short-term, and certainly within the time-scale of a few hours (i.e. the response time of current STOR contracts). It is an interesting suggestion though do you know if there is any formal analysis of the benefits (or otherwise) of these projects)?
I have to agree, having come across and watched dozens of these schemes over the past ten years or more, the developer promises visual impact assessment and remedial ground works to mitigate the impact, which mollify SEPA, SNH and the respective local authority.
However when you look at the visual impact assessment they are disingenuous by commonly only considering the intakes plus power house and not the associated tracks.
Then the developer / owner commonly pays scant regard to the remedial works, and the locally authority are either to strapped / not bothered to enforce, and the scars remain.
Anyone who suggests that all is 'rosy' and that they will somehow 'blend in' without significant works (which clearly hasn't happened to the vast majority built so far), obviously are being willfully blind.
I'm not against ROR schemes ('think global, but act local') but so far they have been poorly implemented, and given their past track record (pun intended) they shouldn't be put in Glen Etive. In fact I'd go so far as implementing a moratorium on new builds, till the industry cleans up its previous operational sites.
Referring back to my previous post, it may be far better to place our renewables offshore. From some research articles, it appears they can have an overall positive effect even locally:
The loud sounds emitted during pile driving could potentially cause hearing damage, mask communication or disorient animals and fish as they move out of the area to avoid the noise. There is also a risk of marine animals being injured by ships or being disturbed by vessel movements associated with surveying and installation activities. On the other hand, wind turbines may act as artificial reefs and increase food sources. They could also potentially provide a de facto marine reserve thanks to restrictions on boating and fishing surrounding the wind turbines.
Offshore wind developers along the US East Coast, for instance, are able to better protect endangered whales because research in the North Sea shows that construction noise temporarily displaces some fish and marine mammals; so they're now timing building to avoid affecting those species when they are in the area, said Greer Ryan, a sustainability researcher with the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity.
Off the Scandinavian coast, scientist have watched some of the underwater turbine foundations gradually transform into artificial reefs, attracting mollusks and small fish that feed on plankton. This magnet effect goes right up the food chain to larger fish, seals and dolphins.
Some scientists have described these zones as de facto marine sanctuaries because fishing is often limited directly around the turbines.
Seafloor ecosystems may even be recovering in areas where fishermen have "pulverized" the seabed by dragging heavy nets along the seafloor for 100 years, said Jason Hall-Spencer, a marine biologist at the University of Plymouth.
The same cannot be said for these hydro schemes.
I only follow Scottish developments on UKC.
Do Highland Council give every development, whatever it is, that crosses their desk the green light?
It appears so from the threads I've seen on here over the years.
Like most of the run of river schemes up and down the Highlands, they will be designed and built to a very poor standard. Generate limited power in summer and probably be abandoned within ten years.
They are told to green light them unless there are exceptional problems. I think this is the issue. In reality, the government should be directing the best locations rather than reacting to applications
Fascinating, I went to an IET presentation on small hydro last week and they never mentioned this. They did seem quite bright and had clear understand of the business case required to build, maybe that was all they had?
I mean the quality of construction used for intake structures, pipe trenches, access tracks etc.
We need more power generation capacity, especially if we want to go all electric with cars. It's better these schemes than more fossil fuel or nuclear power.
It is a beautiful area but would the alternative sites be any less controversial?
Arguably better than fossil fuel, but how is it better than nuclear, which is the only available (near) zero-emissions option available?
Why bother objecting? When was the last time that anything like this was stopped? Britain is increasingly an urban country with urban ideals. The value of open and uninterrupted spaces is lost on many people.
> Why bother objecting? When was the last time that anything like this was stopped? Britain is increasingly an urban country with urban ideals. The value of open and uninterrupted spaces is lost on many people.
I think we need a balance .
Its really only the urban folk who create the power demand .
How is that? Are rural folk generating their own power?
Generally one's carbon footprint is smaller when living in a city than the countryside (where either you drive to everything or they get delivered to you). I can enjoy music, go to the cinema, hospital, eat out and never use a car for these things.
I think we're all in the same boat when it comes to believing in Climate Change, but in my honest opinion I don't think people truly accept the implications of it. It's a shame sensationalist titles like this get people concerned and vehemently opposed to any development in the countryside. If we're really serious about climate change we need to ask ourselves what a future would look like with more renewable energy. I think these proposed MICRO hydro schemes are great, and let's be honest, they aren't going to flood the Glen like the 3 Gorges dam in China... I'm personally disappointed in Mountaineering Scotland's one-sided and short-sighted approach to countryside renewables.
I am operations director of a community owned hydro scheme just north of Callander. My problem isnt the schemes themselves (so long as they are built to planning constraints) but who gets the money. Our scheme generates a maximum of 425Kw. Income comes from our export tarrif (what we sell power for) 10p / KwHr and fit income for the first 20 years of operation (a tax on all our electricity bills) 20p/KwHr. Currently we are exporting about 300 Kw so earning £ 100/hr.
We have also saved over 5000 tonnes off carbon in the 5 years we have been operating.
In our case we are run by volunteers and all profits are gifted to the community. You can apply for a grant for almost anything so long as you can convince the grant award committee it will benefit Callander. See https://incallander.co.uk/ccdt_hydrofundgrants
How much is Locaber going to benefit from the schemes? An earler post said a paltry £4OK and the rest of the income to the developers? That is a lot of money. This money can be used together with matched funding to provide a sustainable communities.
Looks like Sorley Mcleams words ring as true as ever.
"Famine, overpopulation, improvement, the industrial revolution, expansion overseas. you see, not many of these people understood such words, they knew only Gaelic. But we know now another set of words; clearance, empire, profit, exploitation, Hydro. Our way of life is besieged by the forces of international big business."
Evidence that the SNP, despite what they try to portray, are in bed with big business. End off. If you voted SNP, this is what you get. No sense in complaining.
> Evidence that the SNP, despite what they try to portray, are in bed with big business. End off. If you voted SNP, this is what you get. No sense in complaining.
Actually many councillors have just objected. Enough to cause a second look by all of the councillors in the Highlands area.
I've just checked again and there were three independents, an SNP, a Conservative Unionist and a Labour voting for the scheme and a two Independents and a Conservative Unionist against it.
Hardly an SNP whitewash
> Britain is increasingly an urban country with urban ideals.
In what sense? According to research at the University of Sheffield, less than 6% of land in the UK is urban.
It's not about how much land is taken up but about where people live and their way of thinking which relates to that. If the majority of the British population are living on just 6% of the land then how can they have any understanding about what's going on the rest of it. They clearly don't and as a nation we are losing touch with our rural past.
> I think we're all in the same boat when it comes to believing in Climate Change, but in my honest opinion I don't think people truly accept the implications of it. It's a shame sensationalist titles like this get people concerned and vehemently opposed to any development in the countryside.
Any development? No - I'm quite happy with two big ones 5 minutes from my house. This is 20 minutes from my house and some of the most accessible 'wild' land around for a lot of people. The argument isn't against hydro, it's against poor hydro in poorly chosen locations.
> In what sense? According to research at the University of Sheffield, less than 6% of land in the UK is urban.
But the impact of that urbanisation extends far beyond the actual footprint of the buildings and infrastructure.
theres a motion to try and get this re considered
Does Scotland as a nation really need more small hydro schemes? It makes no sense, virtually all our energy use is already provided by nuclear and renewables. From a cost Vs benefit it makes no sense. The world is now tied into at least 2 degree warning, and it's unlikely we can prevent less than 3 degrees. All more renewables do is add cost to energy bills while the rest of the world does nothing. Our next target as a nation should be to reduce emissions from transportation through congestion charging and improved public transport, while investing in mitigation such as reforesting uplands to reduce downstream flooding.
The unfortunate truth about these 'green' micro hydro schemes is they only get built because of the subsidies they generate.
Same as windfarms...
Far too little time & money is spent on energy conservation.
> Any development? No - I'm quite happy with two big ones 5 minutes from my house. This is 20 minutes from my house and some of the most accessible 'wild' land around for a lot of people. The argument isn't against hydro, it's against poor hydro in poorly chosen locations.
Once the land is rewilded with a tree line slowly thinning around 800-900m, I don't think anyone will notice a few small dams.
The eco arguments like otters, fish spawning etc should all be considered, but not the public wanting a very precise ideal of what they think wild hills should look like, after travelling along miles of tarmac road, churning out carbon, the very reason the renewable energy sources are needed in the first place.
> The unfortunate truth about these 'green' micro hydro schemes is they only get built because of the subsidies they generate.
> Same as windfarms...
> Far too little time & money is spent on energy conservation.
I will agree on conservation. But there are now 100s of micro hydro plants working very well at or nearby to locations which originally had mills 100-300 years ago. They weren't built there in the first place by chance and there were no subsidies then, there will be just as many unused locations in remote areas which weren't developed simply because they were too far away from the resources the mills were processing. Lanarkshire to Glen Etive is a fair trek for example.
> I'm with the school kids on this, thank goodness the Scottish government is taking climate change seriously.
No they're not. It's tokenism. Like not throwing away plastic bags but still going on holiday to South America and drivng your kids to school in an SUV.
If they wanted to do something substantive about climate change they'd be in favour of building a nuclear power station in Scotland, maybe two. Of course they won't because some people don't like nuclear power and will never do anything that might lose votes.
These schemes generate a handful a MW and with them comes roads and power lines to previously unspoilt landscapes. Compare that to a nuclear plant at Hunterston in an urban environment generating 1200 or 1500 MW.
The solution is nuclear and renewables. Only then would a country have the electricity it needs to move away from the internal combustion engine and not need fossil fuel power stations.
The UK is a great position climate wise, which it fails to fully utilise. Windy, rainy, surf and some amazing tidal ranges.. etc. It's not even that cold so air sourced would be great too.
It seems it's not quite approved yet
I think Erik is correct and it is tokenism, small scale hydro schemes are all about land owners making money and nothing about tackling climate change, I actually support small hydro schemes on community owner land, good money to be made for community development.
All small hydro schemes do is add to our energy bills, and an inefficient way to tackle climate change, putting money into planting tree would be more cost effective which much bigger reduction in CO2.
Professor Dave Mackay estimate in his book sustainable energy without the hot air estimates that if every river in the UK uplands and lowlands was dammed for hydro energy, the maximum amount of energy it would generate would be 1.5kWh/d, he also estimates average electricity consumptions per person in UK was 17kWh/d (when his book was published), thus is not hard to conclude that the token amount of electricity produced by current and future small hydro schemes in UK is going to play a extremely small part in carbon reduction, and really not worth all the new roads built, pylons, and destruction to freshwater biodiversity, never mind the massive cost passed on to the tax payer that could be better spent on other climate change mitigation schemes.
No one is suggesting hydro can provide it alone. But add in solar, wind, tidal, wave... then combine that with bio mass, more efficient ground and air source heating systems; nuclear power too... it might reduce the need for the UK to ship so much gas around the world, or wood from the USA.
Of course we all know fusion power is just 10 years away.
10% is token? Community making money but not landowners? Seems a bit harsh?
Another thing this is doing is developing the small scale hydro industry in the same way windfarms are being developed. My other half is looking at a windfarm at the moment, guessing that 10mw turbines will be available then and not speccing turbines at the moment. Hydro will be affected the same, it will get more and more efficient and cheaper and cheaper, so eventually others around the world in not so developed countries that need energy and are doing lots of damage to the environment will be able to fit it. Then it will have massive impact, but we need to develop the tech and the companies to make it work.
And what's the alternative to doing this? Do nothing? That always works.
> And what's the alternative to doing this?
Investing in some long-overdue new nuclear plants
I think currently small hydro gives us significantly less than 1% , with not much scope to scale up, without massive cost being past to consumer. Just like wave energy and solar in Scotland, small costly steps that won't achieve alot but cost a fortune.
Nuclear is the obvious power source to tackle climate change . We need big steps to achieve big reductions in C02. Everyone doing a little, archives a little, but barely contributes to solving the problem. Wave, and hydro power are about the least effective way as a country that we could tackle climate change. We could also put a wave turbine around the whole off the UK and it would only contribute to about 10% of our electricity use.
Alot of estates building hydro manage land in a way that they are negating most the carbon reductions they achieve in producing hydro power, as the continue with muirburn, allow peat bogs to degrade and releases carbon and over graze the land to extent that what natural or semi natural forest left on land can't regenerate, so I am more supportive of communities profit from hydros.
I don't dispute what you say, generally. But what "wave turbine"? Its not really the point you're making, I realise, but its worth pointing out just how undeveloped we really are with wave energy technology. We are a very, very long way away from generating meaningful amounts of cost effective electricity. And there are some really fundamental issues with wave power that just are not going to go away.
Spot on. Of course it's tokenism.
(Specifically in this location there is a certain irony that an allegedly carbon-reducing scheme is given the go-ahead while a new gas-guzzling snow-making facility is merrily burning up loads of energy at the nearby Glen Coe ski emporium. It almost seems like reverse carbon off-setting - we might theoretically save some CO2 - so let's blow it all on some artificial snow!)
On a wider scale all the renewable schemes in the UK are obviously ultimately pointless. A random example: as Bill Gates recently pointed out, China consumed more concrete between 2011 and 2013 than the United States did in the entire 20th century. Yes, concrete production, one of the biggest sources of CO2 in the world (and coincidentally a distinctly eco-unfriendly material used copiously when building renewable schemes - but mysteriously rarely factored into theoretical carbon saving calculations). That is only one illustration you could quote but it is quite a striking one to indicate how hopeless the situation is without concerted action by all major industrial players in the world to restrain CO2 emissions. Not that there's much sign of that happening anytime soon of course
So the authorities here pretend we're doing our bit with our little sticking plasters over the gaping wound but which achieve little but reduce areas of wild land, damage habitats and continue to diminish any sense of connection with the natural world.
The developers generally don’t give a toss about the environment (as one hydro engineer candidly said to me once: 'We're not here to save the planet, we're here to make a profit for the client') and neither do many of the already-quite-well-off-thank-you-very-much landowners. (Said client of above hydro engineer was an absentee Highland estate-owning American billionaire).
The renewables industry in the UK has instead created a kind of ‘trickle-up effect’ - moving money from the rest of us in the direction of the wealthy using climate change as an excuse to permit damaging development in areas where nothing else would be allowed.
The new climate capitalists really love well-meaning suckers like us!
> > And what's the alternative to doing this?
> Investing in some long-overdue new nuclear plants
But we have privatised pretty much all of our electricity supplies, and it seems that no private companies want to build nuclear plants in the UK
You're right of course - we're happy spending taxes on things like "renewables" and even subsidising the worse-than-coal biomass plant at Drax, but the political will to do something meaningful just isn't there, not in the Government, nor in the Opposition.
> You're right of course - we're happy spending taxes on things like "renewables" and even subsidising the worse-than-coal biomass plant at Drax, but the political will to do something meaningful just isn't there, not in the Government, nor in the Opposition.
Do the government do much more for renewables than they do for nuclear? The government promised a mwh price and granted planning for multiple nuclear plants. So we could be building 4 or 5 right now but only one is going ahead?
Investors see nuclear as too high risk, either because renewable prices are falling fast or because of the very high initial costs and long term issues.
> But we have privatised pretty much all of our electricity supplies, and it seems that no private companies want to build nuclear plants in the UK
Who would? They'd look at Germany and see a change in the political wind means they would be shut-down at whim. We've nuclear power stations that have never been in commision and coal fired plants that will never be completed.
Just because China made a vast amount of concrete doesn't mean the UK can't produce renewable energy. They aren't directly connected it also means the UK and others have some kind of moral high ground when comes to convincing developing countries to change their habits.