The Hydro had to be commissioned this week to get the advantageous FIT tariff rate. This appears to have occurred (although it would appear that in any case it only needs to have run for any time period however brief before the cut-off date to be eligible).
We would presume, however that it is still only running in test mode while the sound test is taking place. Nonetheless, it is running, so I guess this is the official start date and the village will get its money which is good news for the local economy.
Now it is all nearly finished – some general observations about the technical side of how things have panned out – I’ll make some more specific points about the way the development has been conducted in a few weeks once the sound test has been completed and everything is running on a permanent basis.
a) The area at the bottom doesn’t look bad – the pump house isn’t massively out of keeping with the other buildings in the area and the wood cladding looks fine (residents insisted on this after the developer wanted to change the plan to use metal cladding instead). The immediate surroundings have been chipped over so it is no longer a sea of mud.
b) The noise from the turbine is pretty bad for some of the residents at Inveronich. You can hear it coming down the hill at the final bend as well. Measured at the the pump house this morning it was 65db which is way higher than was allowed in the planning permission. The sound test is still taking place so I would hope (and expect) major improvements in this area. The tailrace is not audible and the turbine is not audible from the access road or from across the river. My post from today “Noise from Turbine” has a video illustrating the noise it is currently making.
c) The path is holding up so far, with some signs that (at least in places) the mud is compacting and becoming firmer under foot. We had some pretty heavy rain over the last few days and it seems to be running off into the culverts. This needs to be monitored over the winter to see how it holds up to floods and gales. Some plants are starting to grow back on the margins of the path (mainly rhododendrons!)
d) We got a first shot of the tailrace in operation today. It just looks like a stream of water rather than (as we had feared from looking at other installations) a high pressure jet. It remains to be seen how it looks when the river is very high, but it doesn’t appear to make any appreciable noise or look an eyesore.
e) The dam at the top is not particularly attractive but isn’t visible unless you go out of your way to find it and doesn’t seem to be any more or less unpleasant than other forestry operations within the National Park.
f) With the turbine running, the waterfalls looked OK this morning. It is hard to compare them to what they would have been like (without standing there while the developer turns the system on and off), but they are certainly not reduced to a trickle. This is with what I would describe as ‘medium flow’ on the Donich. However the situation at the top is quite different – the river is more or less completely empty – so the hydro is taking nearly all the water out of it and relying on other streams to put it back. This was not my understanding of the way it was supposed to work – we were told that the system would shut off if there was not enough water left in the river. The two pictures below illustrate my point – one to the intake side of the dam and the other after abstraction.
g) The jury is still out on the impact of the development on the wildlife and general ecology of the area. I have heard reports that no squirrels have been seen on the path since the work started (hardly surprising as so many trees were cut down), but they are still going strong 70m away at the feeding stations we have put up, so my guess is that they will return next year. Badgers are still present but I haven’t seen a pine marten for many months now, presumably because their habitat was disturbed. Argyll being what it is I am hopeful they will be back.
I was half expecting that there would be some type of ‘opening ceremony’ this week 🙂
I am going to continue with this blog for the next few months to record how things develop – I hope it will be a useful resource for other communities wanting information about the impact of this type of development.