The Highland Council has begun detailed designs works on a major £2.5m hydroelectric energy project, part-funded by the Scottish Government through Salix Finance, with the project expected to provide STEM learning opportunities for young people in the area.

The council are preparing to install a a 92kW ‘Archimedes Screw’ hydroelectric power turbine at a site on the River Ness, near Whin Park in Inverness.

“I am thrilled this project is going ahead. We see this as a flagship project that will hopefully inspire and encourage young people of Highland to learn more about STEM subjects and the importance of renewable technologies,” said Cllr Trish Roberston, Chair of Highland Council’s Climate Change Working Group. “Not only that, the design will serve as an attraction for locals and visitors, while saving the organisation money and carbon. It is another example of strong partnership working between Highland Council and our valued partners such as Salix and the Science Skills Academy.”

The scheme will provide 50% of the energy demand for the nearby Inverness Leisure Centre, which is currently one of the highest energy consuming buildings in the Highlands, dramatically reducing the need for fossil fuels.

The hydroelectric turbine has been designed to benefit visitors to the area, providing better connections between the city centre and the river and encouraging the 6 million yearly visitors to Highland to experience the sustainability initiative, set within the beauty of the natural landscape.

As part of the development, Highland Council is working with the Science Skills Academy (SSA) to encourage interest in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) projects through the addition of interactive screens and educational content.

The SSA is a partnership project led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and with £3m from the Scottish Government. The funding is part of the £315 million Inverness and Highlands City Region Deal, which is funded by the Scottish and UK Governments and regional partners.

“This is an innovative project that provides an excellent opportunity for young people, their families and other members of the public to learn about renewable energy generation while demonstrating career opportunities and pathways,” explained Emma Robertson, Science Skills Academy project manager. “This fascinating piece of engineering uses proven technology and will inspire young scientists and engineers of the future.”

The project will operate for an excess of 65 years and has been implemented as part of the council’s wider ambition to create long-term, positive change to the city and region, whilst leading the way in low carbon generation in Inverness. Taking a strategic approach such as this ensures that savings on energy costs can continue to grow over time, freeing up capital for further investment in the community.

The hydroelectric turbine is set to complete in Spring 2022.

River Ness Hydro Artist’s Impressions – viewing gallery and fish ladder