History of Hydropower

fort augustus abbey-scepia

Scotland has a significant history of hydro-electric power generation.

The first hydro-electic scheme to provide power to the public was built by the monks at Fort Augustus Abbey in 1890.  They created an 18kW scheme to power their organ, and to provide street lighting to the village of 800 people.  Reputedly, when the organ was being played the lights dimmed!

In the early 1900s estates started building small hydro schemes to produce electricity to provide power to the main house or castle.  Then in the 1950s and 60s with the emergence of the National Grid there was massive investment through the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board (NoSHEB), the building of many large dams and the flooding of glens.

The benefit of this historical investment is that Scotland now has a production capacity of 1,388 MW representing some 12% of the total UK’s electrical capacity requirement.

The beautiful thing about this electricity is that it is completely ‘green’. It is genuinely a zero carbon source of power – if we ignore the concrete used in the construction of the dams.

The biggest and ‘best’ glens have already been developed by NoSHEB.  However SHE is still developing some new storage schemes and adding to the capacity. But there are many, many more schemes that can be developed as ‘run-of-river’ solutions where only a weir is required to abstract the water rather than store it.  In fact through the use of Hydrobot the location of some 7,000 commercially viable schemes have been identified (as reported by the Scottish Government in ‘The Employment Potential of Scotland’s Hydro Resource - 2010’).