Golden Spade event at Harlaw Reservoir

The sun peeked out and we had a dry day for our Golden Spade event up at Harlaw Reservoir on Wednesday 3rd September. Around 50 people came along; a mixture of shareholders, BVT and HH Directors, the new BVT staff and several professionals from CEC and other organisations who have supported our efforts on this project for the last 5 years. Thank you for coming along!

The Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Cllr Donald Wilson, came to officially cut the first sods that signal the start of work this week up at the reservoir. We also had the fantastic P3s from Dean Park Primary School to entertain and impress, led by the ever able Mrs Pamela Watson (they feature at the start of the video- link below). Definitely added a lovely touch to the whole event.

This is the start of our building phase. Cllr Wilson is especially keen on our project as he was part of the team who originally pushed for a City of Edinburgh Council assessment of the hydro potential of the Water of Leith. Now, almost 7 years later, the community that sits closest to the most viable option up at Harlaw are making it happen. It feels good!

The Technical team are still at the helm of this project. The work for us now ramps up a gear as we keep all the plates spinning on the build (we have engaged a Clerk of Works to manage the on-site developments), the connection to the Grid and any other issues that arise as we go along.

We will post up photos of progress as we go along,

Permission to go!!!!

At long last, after a great deal of effort by a number of people, Permission to go!!!! was received this afternoon.   The next step is to get construction started, we had a contractor ready to go but they’ve been waiting for a while and now have other work in hand.  The start date could be early September.

Progress with Challenge No2 – City of Edinburgh

A series of focused e-mails and tweets from our members have helped CEC to focus on getting construction under way.  All the contentious areas, (the lease, the trees and a non-material variation of planning permission) have made progress since the Harlaw Hydro AGM on 30th May.  A large number of questions and requests for more detail have been made, most have been responded to.  By close of play on 20th June the HH team expect to have responded to the remaining items and to have provided the necessary information to formally discharge the planning conditions.

The ball is firmly in the CEC court and with the necessary commitment the necessary approvals by the end of June are still possible.

Challenge No2 – City of Edinburgh

The City of Edinburgh (CEC) is our landlord, the owner and operator of the reservoirs that hold the water for our micro-hydro scheme and it is very keen to promote community action and green energy projects.  In many ways CEC has been very supportive of our project, in March 2013 the council approved favourable heads of terms of a lease for the site we need and a number of officers of CEC have willingly met with us to help move the project forward.   However several items have moved very slowly and are in danger of causing significant delay as well as frustration.

Construction on the site could be underway now with the prospect of green energy being generated in September/ October this year but the heads of terms for the lease have only just been translated into a legal lease (received by our lawyers May 2014 14  months after council approval).  If the lease isn’t agreed within the next month, which will be fast for the legal profession, there is a real prospect of construction being delayed until spring next year.  There are other areas, such as tree management where progress needs to be made as well but the lease is the single biggest challenge at present.

Challenge No1 – Cost

Since the cost estimates in the feasibility studies were completed in 2010 several things have changed; importantly the size of the turbine has been increased from 65kvA to 95kvA which will enable us to take advantage of peaks in the flow of water available and we can now replace most of the estimated costs with firm prices.  However inevitably the total has risen and up to £105k in additional funding is being sought.

The society has established that it can borrow the additional amount required but the most cost effective route to additional capital is to sell more shares.  Accordingly the share offer is being re-opened on exactly the same terms as before, the share application form is on the website along with the updated financial projection.  The intention is to keep the share offer open until at least July 2014; the board will keep the closing date under review.

Our 1st AGM – Friday 30th May 2014

There was a good turnout for our first AGM, 48 members plus a number of partners and friends.  As required of an AGM the meeting approved the accounts and elected directors, several new faces joining the board.  It then heard about the progress and challenges of making the hydro scheme happen.  In the near future minutes from the meeting and a copy of the presentation will be available on the website.

Contract goes out to tender

Another milestone – the contract for the on site construction work went out to tender this week.  This contract covers the excavation, concrete foundations, turbine house, pipework, in short everything required to prepare the site for the installation of the generating equipment.

Provided the City of Edinburgh completes the legal paperwork for the lease (heads of terms were approved by the Councillors in March 2013) there should be visible signs of progress by this summer with an autumn completion being the target.

The Budget and EIS

The Chancellor’s budget announcements proposed some changes to EIS eligibility and some members have been asking if this affects us.

We have inquired and all the advice is that the likely changes will not affect Hydro or Community ventures.  However until the Finance Bill is published (circa June) no one is certain; even HMRC can’t be anymore definite than that.