Tayside and Central Scotland

Century-old hydro scheme powered up at Blair Castle

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Media captionOne of Scotland's biggest castles has reinstalled its Edwardian hydro electric scheme to cut electricity bills to almost nothing

A 100-year-old hydro electric scheme has been recommissioned to power a castle in Highland Perthshire.

Blair Castle first had the hydro system installed in 1908, and it ran until the national grid was switched on in 1951.

After bosses discovered the original piping was still in good condition, work started to get the scheme up and running again.

The 13th century castle in Blair Atholl is now entirely energy self-sufficient.

Work got under way to re-build the hydro system last year, after it was discovered the original pipework was still working, and indeed had been continually in use since 1951 for the castle fire hydrant system.

A full consultancy team of hydro engineers, environmentalist and electrical specialists was brought on board to install a new intake and refurbish the powerhouse with a new turbine.

Work was also done by acoustic engineers to soundproof the old power house, as the turbine generates about 85 decibels of noise when running. At full flow, 331,200 litres of water pass through the turbine every hour.

A special viewing window has been built into the power house so visitors to the castle can see the system at work and learn about the history of the hydro scheme.

Environmentally friendly

Andrew Bruce-Wooton, general manager at Atholl Estates, said: "The re-commissioning of our very old, but enduring hydro-electric scheme has been a real triumph for everyone involved in this project.

"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."

Fergus Ewing, the Scottish government's minister for business, energy and tourism, visited the castle to mark the re-opening of the scheme.

He said: "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.

"This hydro-electric scheme is a prime example of how businesses can make sustainable use of their natural resources without adversely affecting our stunning Scottish landscape, while also creating, for themselves, a positive commercial advantage. "

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