So is hydro the green power solution with no downsides? I was back in the north-west this weekend and took a walk up Maol Chean Dearg – Gary Wroe’s penultimate Munro.
On the way we came through the workings for the new Coulags hydro scheme, a run-of-river scheme (there’s no dam or reservoir) which will eventually have the capacity to generate 1.5MW.
There is a bit of mess – a new road, diggers in the glen, a new turbine house which will be screened by trees, but this Coulags Sign tells you more about the scheme, and it does seem that everything is being done responsibly, and the ground is to be restored. I am all for development in the glens if it helps keep people in the area, but there is just a niggle in my head.
We are pouring resources into hydro schemes. We later met the bloke who maintains the MBA bothy up the glen, and I think he said there were something like 14 new hydro schemes between there and – was it Lochalsh? However much care is taken, anglers I know suggest they will affect aquatic life. There’s a stretch of the Fionn Abhainn just above the work that is breathtaking, a long water slide with curls of foam, dark water on smooth rock. I’m not sure if the new scheme will take water out above this or not, but if it does it will affect its appearance.
These may seem all not unreasonable prices to pay for green energy and local employment, but throw in the fact that there seems to be little debate about it, and as far as I can tell renewables are only economic because of subsidised feed-in tariffs … and it raises questions … or should it?