100-year old Scottish hydro-electric generator is re-started to produce renewable power for 750-year old Blair Castle


GONE GREEN: Hydro-powered Blair Castle. PHOTO: Nigel Lumsden,  Atholl Estates
GONE GREEN: Hydro-powered Blair Castle. PHOTO: Nigel Lumsden, Atholl Estates

A hydro-electric power plant first installed in 1908 at Blair Castle, near Pitlochry, has now been re-started following a 10-year refurbishment.

The hydro scheme will generate enough energy to power the 13th century the castle, offering both financial and environmental benefits to the estate and surrounding area.

De-commissioned in 1951 after the arrival of the National Grid, the castle decided to re-visit the original hydro scheme to see if there was a way to develop an income stream to offset the increasing costs of maintaining Blair Castle.

A team of hydro engineers (Campbell of Doune), environmentalists and electrical specialists started construction of the re-commissioned hydro in 2014. After approaching Gilkes, the manufacturers of the original 1908 turbines, and extensive specialist testing, the project team discovered that the original pipe from 1908 was still in good working order because it had been full of water and continually in use since 1951 for the castle’s fire hydrant system.

The team constructed a new intake and the existing powerhouse was refurbished with a new Gilkes 84kW turbine. Now, at full design flow, 331,200 litres of water pass through the turbine every hour.

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing (right) visits the turbine room
Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing (right) visits the turbine room

To mark the re-opening, Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing visited the castle to see the turbine for himself. He commented: “It is fascinating to see a working hydro-electric scheme from a century ago re-mastered and utilised in this way.

“This hydro-electric scheme is a prime example of how businesses can make sustainable use of their natural resources without adversely affecting our stunning Scottish landscape, while also creating, for themselves, a positive commercial advantage.

“The team at Blair Castle, and the engineers and designers working on this project have done a fantastic job of using the land effectively while being respectful of the surroundings and ensuring the power-house is environmentally friendly.


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