Scotland’s First Urban Community Hydro Scheme

Sinclair Laing, Founding Director of Aberdeen Community Energy / Founding Member of Donside Community Association, tells us about the Donside Hydro.

The Donside Hydro is Aberdeen’s first community energy scheme and one of the most exciting community renewable projects in the country. By creating 100% clean, renewable energy, it gives the people of Aberdeen – a renowned global energy city – the opportunity to be part of Scotland’s journey towards 100% renewable electricity by 2020. In return, the scheme will generate money that can be spent on improving its riverside location and neighbouring communities.

More importantly the scheme is both owned and led by the Donside Village community, located in the north of Aberdeen. In this sense, the Donside Hydro is about more than just the environment and local economies. It is about a shared ambition and the spirit of the people of the north east. And, it’s about a sense of pride in the local area.

This is of course similar to other community schemes elsewhere in Scotland, including Applecross and Braemar. Both of which bring together a sense of passion and the natural surroundings to deliver social, environmental and economic benefits to the local area and beyond.

What is it?
The Donside Community Association (DCA) secured all the required permissions to build the Donside Hydro on the site of the former Donside Papermill in Tillydrone, Aberdeen, in 2014. As a result, a community benefit society called Aberdeen Community Energy (ACE) was set up to own, develop and operate the scheme on behalf of the community.

The scheme will work by drawing water from the River Don and passing it over an Archimedean screw turbine, turning the water into clean, renewable electricity, which will be sold to the national grid. It will be based on a Barrage hydro scheme layout by raising the water level to be diverted into a turbine, without obstructing the river like a dam or weir.

Surplus profits from the initiative will then be channelled into a community fund that will be used to achieve an array of social and environmental benefits for local communities. Each year the hydro is set to generate enough electricity to power 130 homes and many thousands of pounds towards community initiatives. It will also deliver an annual reduction of 240 tonnes of CO2.

ACE is working closely with members of the nearby communities and recently held a community gathering event to identify priorities for the community fund and how it could be used to make positive and sustainable differences to the local area and local lives.

Local, ethical investment opportunity
The project is currently on track to begin development on the River Don in May 2016 and ACE will be launching a Community Share Offer over the next few weeks, offering an ethical, low-risk investment opportunity to everyone. Investors from the local community, the wider Aberdeen area and indeed the country can expect a healthy return on their investment.

ACE is also inviting conversations with businesses and individuals who may be interested in supporting the initiative financially, as either a lender or investor.

You can keep up to date with the project and find out more about investment opportunities by visiting us online.

Sinclair Laing, Founding Director of Aberdeen Community Energy / Founding Member of Donside Community Association.