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Minister for Business, Energy & Tourism, Fergus Ewing, this week officially revealed the 100-year-old re-commissioned Edwardian hydro-electric scheme at Blair Castle in Highland Perthshire. The hydro scheme, which was originally commissioned in 1908 by Gilkes, will generate enough energy to power 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. Now fully operational, electricity bills for the 13th century castle are a thing of the past with Blair Castle's energy supply now enabling the building to be self-sustaining as well as environmentally friendly in the process.
A full consultancy team of hydro engineers (Campbell of Doune), environmentalists and electrical specialists started construction of the re-commissioned hydro in 2014. The team constructed a new intake and the existing powerhouse was refurbished with Gilkes supplying a full mechanical and electrical turbine package. This consisted of an 84kW compact Pelton turbine, generator, control system and all cabling, installation and commissioning. Now, at full design flow, 331,200 litres of water pass through the turbine every hour.
Mr Fergus Ewing commented: "It is fascinating to see a working hydro-electric scheme from a century ago re-mastered and utilised in this way. 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. The power house itself is another story for the Castle to add to its rich history and I'm sure many visitors will enjoy learning about their impressive hydro-electric scheme.
Andrew Bruce-Wootton, General Manager at Atholl Estates added: "The re-commissioning of our very old, but enduring hydro-electric scheme has been a real triumph for everyone involved in this project. We are delighted to be welcoming the Minister to officially mark it as being opened. There are many benefits to both Blair Castle and Atholl Estates, but a highlight has to be the work that has gone into refurbishing our power house to create another unique experience for visitors to the Castle to enjoy.
Photograph of Powerhouse © Cara Connell