December 7, 2021
Hats off to Morvern
In 1998, a remote west highland community faced an uncertain future when the village’s only fuel pump was removed. That crisis became the catalyst for more than two decades of remarkable community action to safeguard the community’s future. Having resolved the fuel pump crisis, the community proceeded to build yachting pontoons and shore facilities, an allotment site, a community hub, cafe and office space and three, one bedroom houses. And that’s just the building projects. Potentially the most ambitious of which opened last month – the UK’s largest community owned hydropower scheme. Morvern Community Development Company – take a bow.
A community on the west coast of Scotland will officially launch the UK’s largest community-owned hydropower scheme today as it also prepares to open a community hub and new housing.
The Barr River hydropower scheme was completed in July 2021 on a site deep in the forest, 11 miles from the village of Lochaline.
The projects have been delivered by the Morvern Community Development Company (MCDC) with support from local development officer, Lilia Dobrokhodova, whose post is funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, has been invited by MCDC to mark the official opening of the projects alongside local school student Isla MacKechnie.
Lilia Dobrokhodova said: “2021 has been an exceptional year for us with the completion of three major projects that are already providing tangible benefits to the community.
“It is great to see the years of planning come to fruition, despite the added challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the largest community-owned hydro scheme in the UK, it is a project that we are rightly proud of, and one that offers huge future potential to the community.”
The 1.6Mw hydropower scheme is 100% owned by the community and is expected to generate almost 4.3m kWh each year – enough to power over 1,000 homes.
Initial support for the project was secured through the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES). The final funding package of £6.5 million also included £2.23m from the Energy Investment Fund, which is administered by Scottish Enterprise on behalf of the Scottish Government.
Work on the community hub, which includes workspace and a cafe, finished earlier this year and it opened to the public in July 2021. Three new one-bedroom houses were also completed, and the new tenants have moved in.
Jane Stuart-Smith, chair, MCDC, said: “Morvern is a delightful place to live and work, and its sustainability as a remote rural location has been bolstered by MCDC’s strong track record in creating and delivering fantastic local infrastructure projects.
“The income from the scheme will be an important source of investment into local development priorities. Its development also gives the Morvern community a strategic stake in the energy supply on the peninsula.
“Of course, none of this would have been possible without the thousands of hours of volunteer effort given by members of the local community – a massive thank you to all involved.”
The local development officer post at MCDC has been funded by HIE for over ten years. Lilia has overseen a range of ambitious community benefit projects during that time, including notably the pontoon and shoreside developments at Cala Loch Àlainn.
Ian Philp, account manager at HIE, said: “Having worked with MCDC for over a decade, we are delighted to see how much the community has achieved, and the benefits for local people.
“As local development officer Lilia has been fantastic at bringing these projects to life and supporting our aim of developing resilient communities, particularly in fragile areas like the Morvern peninsula.”