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Knoydart Renewables – The Power of Knoydart

clean green hydro power for our community

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Who are Knoydart Renewables Ltd?

Knoydart is not connected to the UK National Grid electrical network. 

Knoydart Renewables Limited (KRL) is a wholly-owned but independently-managed subsidiary trading company of the Knoydart Foundation.  Other than some small run-of-burn micro schemes in outlying communities, KRL is responsible for managing and maintaining all aspects of electricity generation and supply around Inverie Bay; a challenging undertaking with all the demands of a large electricity company but with a very small customer base to share in its operating expenses and capital expenditure.  

KRL generates, transmits, distributes and sells electricity to approximately 100 domestic and business properties on Knoydart via a ‘microgrid’ from a single 300 kW hydro-turbine supported by 2 x 100 kW diesel back-up generators.  The hydro-turbine is dependent on the potential energy stored in Loch Bhraomisaig, more than 300 m up the flanks of Bheinn Budhie, delivered to the KRL turbine house at the foot of the mountain via a buried 400 mm diameter penstock (or pipeline).

The original hydro scheme that powered the community was installed in the late 1970s by the then private landowner.  Prior to this, the community first received electricity from a diesel generator in the 1950s.  The hydro scheme, as well as the transmission and distribution system, was transferred to community ownership in 2001, by which time it had fallen into a dilapidated state.  In the past 20 years there has been a significant development of the energy system under community ownership.  This development has allowed new businesses to establish on Knoydart, catering for the growing tourism industry and land management activities.

KRL 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.

On Knoydart, Kyle Smith, through his company Energy Mutual, is KRL Operations Manager and Jim Brown is KRL Maintenance Manager.  He is ably assisted by Willie Dowlen, Uilleam O’Neill and Board director John Cocker.  Jim Wilson provides high voltage (HV) and grid support through Donfield Consulting and Ed Carrick provides civil engineering support.  Corinna Calder, who runs Knoydart Foundation operations, handles back-office functions.  The Chair of KRL provides an unpaid hands-on co-ordination and support roll, working with the Operations Manager on overall budget management and strategic planning, assisted by the board directors and consultants.

Meet the team

How does Knoydart Renewables Ltd generate and distribute electricity?

Starting 330 m high up on the flank of Beinn Bhuidhe, towering 855 metres above Kilchoan to the east of the River Inverie, lies Loch Bhraomisaig, which is dammed and provides an estimated storage capacity of at least 74 MWh.  Delivered through a 1.5 km, 400 mm diameter buried ‘penstock’, or pipeline, water with a flow of around 100 litres/second powers a nominal 300 kW hydro-turbine and generator (backed up by two x 100 kW diesel generators in Inverie village).  Electricity is transmitted and distributed to the community around Inverie Bay through a microgrid of 7 km of 11 kV, 3-phase electricity cable, via 85 poles and 15 transformers, leading to the metering and billing of nearly 90 connected properties and businesses, serving over 120 residents. 

Since 2015, KRL has refurbished the Loch Braomisaig dam and replaced the previous old 1970s metal penstock sections through the dam with the larger diameter buried pipes now in place.

By 2023 the whole 1.5 km penstock has been replaced and buried, a new generator installed, the turbine modernised, and new control panels and switchgear added to the electrical distribution system.  The opportunity was also taken to start undergrounding vulnerable parts of the transmission system, beginning with the section between the turbine house and the Old Dairy transformer. 

The new penstock is oversized to allow for higher power generation.  Currently the hydro-turbine can output a maximum 330 kW but there is hydraulic capacity available to achieve more than 700 kW.  This offers the ability to run a larger or secondary turbine to cover periods of peak demand on the microgrid should KRL be unable to control peak demand through other demand management measures.

The improvements to the electrical distribution system have been designed with the expectation that more properties will move from oil-fired to electrical heating and, that over time, Knoydart will see more electric vehicles (currently there are at least three electric vehicles in operation).  This requires over sizing of certain cables and transformers to accommodate future electrical demand. 

The Knoydart Energy Security Project.

KRL has recently completed an energy security project (ESP), 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 Knoydart community and for the thousands of visitors who come to enjoy the wild landscape of Knoydart every year.  An investment of £2.7 million has been made to secure Inverie Bay’s energy supply for another fifty years and the potential for KRL to provide power to those small communities to the west of Inverie, not currently served.  This project guarantees a clean, affordable, reliable, entirely renewable supply of electricity to drive the economic regeneration of Knoydart.

Energy innovation

KRL has been and continues to be involved, in a number of innovative projects.  Currently, it is working with Arup Ltd. 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., exploring 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.

KRL is an active member of the Highlands Microgrid Network and has led 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.

Now that Inverie Bay has a secure electricity supply, more people want to invest in Knoydart by building houses and starting or extending businesses around the Inverie Bay area.  Power is now provided for a 4G mast which has been commissioned as part of the Home Office scheme to fill in areas of mobile communications non-coverage.  The Knoydart Brewery and the Old Forge public house have both gone fully electric and a supply agreement has been reached with Kilchoan Estate for their Dunton Destinations development.  In addition, eleven new and three refurbished houses have or are about to receive planning permission and the Knoydart Foundation intends building six workers’ accommodation units, all of which will require power.  The possibility of providing power to visiting cruise ships at Inverie Pier is also being explored. 

General enquiries: operations@knoydart.org

Tour enquiries: ranger@knoydart.org

Accommodation enquiries: stay@knoydart.org

Shop enquiries: shop@knoydart.org

 

Knoydart Foundation, Knoydart Trading Ltd and Knoydart Renewables - Foundation Office - Inverie - Knoydart - PH41 4PL  Registered in Scotland SC171248  Charity Limited by Guarantee SC026246  All content on this website is copyright of the Knoydart Foundation.