Technology: 100kW Community hydroelectric scheme
Location: Milton of Buchanan, by Drymen, near Loch Lomond
CARES funding: £15,038 development grant and £573,000 loan
Date installed/operational: July 2022 


Buchanan is a proud, rural Scottish community on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. The local community, which has a long history, is eager to play its part in tackling climate change and to live more sustainably. With the community located in the west of Scotland, with high annual rainfall, the idea for the Buchanan Community Hydro Society was born.

The community is spread-out over five miles on the East side of Loch Lomond, from Buchanan Smithy in the south-east to Rowardennan in the north. A significant portion of residents are old and ageing and the local primary school was mothballed in 2018.

The community’s recent community action plan identified several challenges facing the community:

  • lack of public transport
  • road conditions and road safety
  • broadband and mobile phone provision
  • affordable housing and employment
  • quality and maintenance of community and visitor facilities
  • refuse collection and recycling
  • visitor management.

Project aims and objectives

The hydro scheme was initiated by Highland Eco Design as part of a commercial portfolio of projects across Scotland to be delivered in time for the final tranche of the Feed-in Tariff.  The project was handed over to the community, who sought support from Energy4All and Local Energy Scotland to progress the project.

In 2018, Buchanan Community Hydro Society was incorporated as a community benefit company (BenCom). The society was established by Energy4All with representatives from the East Loch Lomond Development Trust. The hydro project is based on land owned by Forestry and Land Scotland and the Montrose Estates.

The project aimed to:

  • build a 100kW run-of-river hydroelectric scheme
  • achieve Feed-in Tariff accreditation
  • make a meaningful contribution to the local community by giving grants to local organisations from a Community Benefit Fund, funded by the financial surplus generated
  • support the Scottish Government’s target of 2 GW of community and locally owned energy by 2030.

Buchanan Community Hydro Society applied for funding and support from the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES). Local Energy Scotland, which manages CARES, supported the hydro’s development by providing capital and loan funding as well as handholding support, financial, technical and due diligence support to the community.

Outcomes and achievements

Buchanan Community Hydro
Picture credit: Tom Nockolds, Energy4All.

The new 100kW run-of-river community hydro scheme was built and was fully operational on 15 July 2022. It was officially opened with a community event on 1 September 2022.

The project was accredited under the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme, and in its first year of operation generated 357,000kWh of clean power, which was 11% more than expected.

The society made the first awards from its Community Benefit Fund in Spring 2023. The fund made eleven awards totalling £23,990.16; these went to the Memorial (Village) Hall, the East Loch Lomond Community Trust, the Buchanan Sheep Dog Society, Buchanan Castle Golf Club, Drymen Scouts, and Drymen Youth Café.

Jamie Graham, Chair of Buchanan Community Hydro Society, says “The project has given the community a sense that it can have the principal say in shaping its future without relying on outside actors and resources.

“The project will have immeasurable community benefit through the successful outcome of a long-term combined community effort. This will directly strengthen a community which has been severely tested by the long-term decline of traditional rural industries and, more recently, by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Jamie Graham adds that The East Loch Lomond Community Trust, Montrose Estates and Forestry and Land Scotland were all important actors in ensuring the success of this project.”

Members of Buchanan Community Hydro Society.
Picture credit: Dave Arcari, Loch Lomond Studios

Lessons learned

Jamie Graham identified several lessons learned throughout the project.

Jamie says “There were times when the project’s finances did not appear to add up. With the right development team, these times were overcome by redesigning the project, timely bridge finance and, ultimately, project finance from an unexpected source for what was fundamentally a sound project.

“We had to decide what our most important priorities were. In the end, we sacrificed individual local ownership for climate change impact and community benefit.

“Although every circumstance is different, there is lots to learn from other communities who have gone before and developed their own projects.”

Read more about the community hydro in this news article on our website, New community hydro-scheme opens near Loch Lomond.

For more information, visit Buchanan Community Hydro Society’s website or its Facebook page.