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Who are Knoydart Renewables Ltd?
Knoydart is not connected to the National Grid and generates all of its own electricity. Other than some small run-of-burn micro-schemes in outlying hamlets, by far and away the the main producer and distributer of electricity on Knoydart is Knoydart Renewables Ltd. that supplies electricity around Inverie Bay.
Knoydart Renewables Ltd. was established in 1999 to operate the 1970s former estate legacy electrical generation and distribution system following the community land buy-out by the Knoydart Foundation. At the buy-out, the system could only generate 50 or 60 kW of electricity intermittently with frequent outages, however, over the years Knoydart Renewables has made £1,200,000 of locally generated investment to increase the amount of electricity that can be generated to 235kW and ensure a greater reliability of supply. Knoydart Renewables Ltd. is now engaged in a multi-million pound Energy Security Project to further secure Knoydart’s electricity supply for another fifty years and allow for the generation of electricity to the maximum capacity of the turbine and generator of 280kW.
The Knoydart community makes an average demand of 110 kW and an occasional maximum demand, especially at New Year, of 190 kW. This means that Knoydart Renewables potentially has 170 kW of surplus electricity available with 90 kW of headroom available even at peak-times, manageable through load management. This is electricity that, if sold, can support the economic development of Knoydart and secure the finances of Knoydart Renewables Ltd. into the future. The latest estimated annual surplus energy available is 1.2 GWh.
Knoydart Renewables Ltd. exists as a wholly owned trading subsidiary of the Knoydart Foundation charity and is governed by a board of volunteer community directors. The day-to-day operations are conducted by a dedicated local team, supported by a wider network of consultants and contractors located throughout Scotland.
In many ways, Knoydart Renewables Ltd was one of the early community energy pioneers and oversaw the refurbishment of the hydroelectric system in 2000 as well as a dam upgrade project in 2015 that was the first step towards modernising and securing Knoydart’s energy future. In addition, Knoydart Renewables Ltd. has supported several technology companies in trialing innovative energy products on the community owned microgrid and has plans to create a Energy Innovations Centre here on Knoydart.
How does Knoydart Renewables Ltd generate and distribute electricity?
331 metres high up on the flank of Beinn Bhuidhe, towering 855 metres above Kilchoan to the east of the River Inverie, lies Loch Bhraomisaig, the source of the water that powers Knoydart Renewables 280 kw turbine and generator. The source of the Alt Dubh that flows into the River Inverie and dammed to create an impounded reservoir, the loch, with an estimated storage capacity of at least 74 MWh, delivers a flow of 129 litres/second through over 1 kilometre of steel pipe supported on concrete anchor blocks and some buried plastic pipe, to a turbine and generator (backed up by a diesel generator in Inverie village) and then on to the community around Inverie Bay, though 7 kilometres of 11 kilovolt 3-phase electricity cable, via 85 poles and 14 transformers, leading to the metering/billing of nearly 90 connected properties and businesses, serving over 120 residents.
Spare a thought for what is happening when someone switches on a kettle to make a cup of tea. Turn on a kettle anywhere around Inverie Bay and you are using our green, renewable energy generated on Knoydart from the rain that falls on the catchment area of Loch Loch Bhraomisaig. Knoydart Renewables is responsible for every part of the process. Switching on the kettle leads to a slightly elevated demand for electricity, a spear-valve opens slightly to cater for the demand, letting a slightly increased flow of water run down the pipe from the reservoir to the turbine, turns the generator with that bit more energy and sends more electricity down the power lines via cables and transformers to the meter box and on to the kitchen socket.
To secure Inverie Bay’s energy supply for another fifty years, Knoydart Renewables Ltd. has embarked on an Knoydart Energy Security Project, in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Local Energy Scotland, the Scottish Government and Scottish and Southern Electricity to deliver a long-term financially and environmentally sustainable energy system for the community and for the thousands of visitors that come to enjoy the wild landscape of Knoydart every year. This project is designed to guarantee a clean, affordable, reliable supply of electricity that will continue to drive the economic regeneration of the area. Several components of the current legacy system are coming to their end of life, the most important being the pipeline, which has recently suffered critical failures and is rapidly approaching the end of its useful life. This project will replace the pipeline with a better designed, buried pipeline on a new route over the next eighteen months and update the mechanical / electrical infrastructure, including the turbine/generator and transformer to modern standards. New domestic and business connections will be added to the network, ensuring sufficient income is generated to support the long term operations of the system.
Knoydart Renewables Ltd. is in the process of developing plans for an Energy Innovations Centre here on Knoydart. Knoydart Renewables Ltd. has supported several technology companies in trialling innovative energy products on the community owned microgrid in the past, such as: new lithium flow-battery technologies by Stor Terra (a potentially ongoing project once the Knoydart energy supply is secure), colour control of a Philips Hue light bulb to indicate available network power capacity in real time, frequency controlled load shedding, power line communication system (Zlynk switches commissioned by Energy Assets), the testing of Dimplex Quantum Storage heaters and load management system, hydro performance data collection and online dashboard display, development of a reservoir hydrological model and hydrogen production and electric ferry studies. The Energy Innovations Centre is designed to build on this work with academic institutions and developers, offering Knoydart’s unique integrated “Loch-to-Kettle” network innovation and testing services to energy technology companies and academia alike.
Knoydart Renewables Ltd. both has been and continues to be involved, in a number of innovative projects. Currently, it is working with Arup limited to build a business and asset management modelling programme, according to a template built up in partnership with Arup and Highland and Islands Enterprise, designed to identify the long-term running costs of the Company under a range of different scenarios and is also involved in a project with the University of Strathclyde and Energy Mutual Ltd., looking at the social and economic impact of renewable energy microgrids through addressing their sustainability challenges, leveraging leading expertise from academia and industry, to comprehensively evaluate existing microgrids to inform asset management strategies and frameworks. The intention is to contribute to a working paper outlining lessons in technical, operational, financial and policy areas to inform the UK local energy sector as well as applying project learning to international contexts with existing or planned microgrid programmes. Devolved microgrids are the direction of travel of the UK and world electricity generation and distribution industries. Knoydart already has what major players are now moving towards.
Knoydart Renewables Ltd. is an active member of the Highlands Microgrid Network and has lead discussion and represented the Microgrid with the Energy Networks Association, the Scottish and UK Government and the University of Strathclyde Power Networks Demonstration Centre as part of the on-going development of the Microgrid.
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