PLANS to create Scotland’s biggest ever hydro-electric scheme in Lochaber came under public scrutiny this week during a public meeting in Invergarry.
Around 85 residents attended the meeting in Glengarry Community Centre on Monday night at which concerns were raised about transport, road infrastructure, the environment and the local economy.
Scottish and Southern Energy Renewables is proposing a 600Mw pumped storage scheme which would extract, store and release energy, to the north-west of Lochy Lochy in the Great Glen.
The development, which could cost in the region of £800 million, could create up to 150 construction jobs.
A planning application was submitted to the Scottish Government in February but SSE Renewables say a final decision on whether to press ahead with the scheme will not be taken until 2014 at the earliest.
The company has also confirmed to the Lochaber News that the Loch a’ Choire Ghlais project is not affected by last week’s decision by SSE to abandon a number of power station projects throughout the country following a UK Government announcement of a 30 per cent cut in subsidies for energy produced by hydro.
The Lochaber project would be the largest to be built in Scotland and the first brand new pumped storage scheme to be developed in the UK since work began on a similar development in Wales in 1974.
The scheme would require the construction of a new dam and upper reservoir in Loch a’ Choire Ghlais. At an estimated height above ground of 92 metres, this dam would be one of the largest in the UK.
A powerhouse complex would be built underground, together with a series of tunnels, to provide access and convey water between the lower reservoir, Loch Lochy, and the upper reservoir.
Once completed SSE claim the scheme would have “minimal” visual impact in the Great Glen.
At Monday’s meeting, chaired by Highland Council's Lochaber wards manager Dot Ferguson, presentations were given by SSE Renewables representatives Andy Gregory and Jennifer Skryna.
Concerns raised by residents included about wildlife and the impact the construction could have on the Great Glen and the crumbling A82 trunk road.
There was support voiced for the scheme too, with one Glengarry resident, Stanley MacDonald, pointing to the fact that a number of lochs in the area were all created by the former Hydro Board.
He said the proposed scheme would be a “great asset” and had "more positives than negatives". His contribution earned Mr MacDonald a round of applause.
A spokesman for SSE Renewables said: “The meeting was a welcome opportunity to explain our proposals in more detail to members of the community and to answer their questions.
“It follows on from a public exhibition which was held at the same venue in November last year, before our plans were submitted for consideration by the Scottish Government in February.
“The project is still in its early stages and no final decision will be taken by SSE Renewables on whether to proceed until 2014 at the earliest. ”