Raasay community works with FLS to keep hydro scheme on track

Near the scheme's top intake on Raasay. NO F23 RasaayNearTopIntakeDowntoVillage (002)
Near the scheme's top intake on Raasay. NO F23 RasaayNearTopIntakeDowntoVillage (002)

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Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) has been working with Raasay Development Trust (RDT) to help keep a renewable energy scheme on track.

The Inverarish Hydro Scheme is the first application of its kind to FLS’s Community Asset Transfer Scheme – to build and operate a community-owned ‘run-of-river’ hydro scheme.

But to secure feed-in tariff for providing power to the National Grid, the scheme has to be operational by September 2021.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the community is having to make some major adjustments to its plans to meet the deadline – and that includes working with FLS to reschedule some harvesting work.

NO F23 Raasay hydro1
NO F23 Raasay hydro1

RDT chairman Iain Hector Ross said sustainable energy solutions will help tackle fuel poverty on the island and strengthen its continuity of supply while helping fulfil a commitment to safeguard the environment for future generations.

‘The hydro scheme will improve the resilience of our community, giving us access to power, reducing our reliance on imported fossil fuels and establishing a small income stream that can fund other projects and contribute to a community benefit fund,’ added Mr Ross.

‘In this initiative, RDT is being supported and funded by Scottish Government’s CARES (Community and Renewable Energy Scheme) and private match funding (Community Benefit Grant) which has also been secured for the project.

‘We have now received planning permission, have the necessary CAR licence from SEPA, are pre-accredited with Ofgem and have a valid grid offer from SSEN.

‘The current COVID-19 restrictions have meant some rearranging and fine tuning of timescales, but we believe that we can quickly build momentum when things return to something near normality.

‘We believe this is only a pause and minor inconvenience considering the longer-term sustainability benefits this project will deliver for the island.’

The renewable energy scheme sits within RDT’s five-year development plan and will be the newest addition to a long line of achievements, including buying out the island’s shop and post office, purchasing 2.4 acres of land for the purpose of building affordable houses and purchasing an old quarry site to develop a local wood fuel enterprise processing logs purchased from FLS.

Graeme Prest, FLS’s north region manager, explained: ‘We’ve worked with the RDT for some time and were involved in the initial stages of the planning for the hydro scheme, helping out with environmental surveys and assessing the access route to the site and carrying out some harvesting along the proposed line of one of the intakes and pipelines.

‘COVID-19 restrictions meant we all had to have a bit of a rethink, both to make the necessary adjustments, and to assess what could be done to  keep the project moving forward and be ready to get cracking once restrictions ease.

‘We’ve made alterations to our proposed felling works to align them with RDT’s plans so that construction can go ahead as soon as possible in line with SG guidelines and still meet the FiTs deadline.’