Project lead: Applecross Community Company Limited
Partners: n/a
Infrastructure and Innovation Fund award amount: £18,396
Status: Complete (May 2014)
Area: Applecross, North West Highlands


Following an initial desktop survey of eight rivers and burns in the Applecross area in 2009, several sites were identified as suitable for locating a micro-hydro scheme. However, the financial cost of upgrading the grid connection limited the potential export capacity of the hydro to 100kW and the scope for a development was thus reduced. The Allt Breugach burn was identified as the most appropriate site to install a hydro scheme.

Getting a quote for grid connection

The company received an indicative quote for over £677,000 to upgrade the grid to allow for a 100kW connection. SSE indicated a maximum export capacity of only 90kW using the present infrastructure, and the company bought a 90kW connection. A rental agreement with the landowner was also secured at 10% gross income after year nine, which was considered higher than average when compared to other community energy projects.

Financial analysis

The result of these factors means that the estimated income to the community from a micro-hydro project would be £30,000 per annum. To maximise the benefits of such a scheme to the community, Applecross Community Company Ltd sought new local uses for surplus electricity generated, including providing heat to local properties. It was envisioned that this would help reduce fuel poverty in the local area whilst also promoting local resilience and generating a higher financial return to the local community.

Initial analysis indicated a good correlation between the heat requirement and available supply from a hydro scheme. More detailed modelling looked at a range of factors. This included:

  • the proportion of heat demand the hydro scheme could cover
  • the amount of electricity exported to the grid
  • the amount of backup heat required when the hydro scheme was not available
  • the amount of potential generation that could not be utilised, either for heating or grid export.

Financial analysis was also carried out. This included:

  • income from sales of electricity to the building occupants
  • Feed-in Tariff (FIT) payments
  • sale of electricity to the grid.

However, during this modelling phase, the distribution network operator (DNO) announced a further revision for the grid export capacity of only 50kW. Simple payback periods were thus calculated based on the 50kW grid export limit. Whole-life costing based on a 25 year period was carried out for the most likely scheme variations. This included:

  • different options for the grid export limit, including a permanent 50kW limit
  • an increase to 90kW in 2022, which is the earliest possible date
  • an increase to 90kW in 2027, allowing five years for delays.

Results showed that all of the options considered have a long-term financial benefit, but that installing a 90kW hydro turbine size is the most appropriate in all cases because it is sufficient to meet the available demand. A hydro of this size also has little, if any, unused generation. Thermal storage offers an improvement in the use of the electricity generated, but is not enough to be financially favourable. However, with funding provision the thermal scheme may be preferred to a hydro-only scheme.

Supporting documents / output report(s)

Read the final Apple juice community hydro case study.