Inspecting a 1920s Hydro Electricity Station

As the focus on utilising renewable energy in the home and industry gathers pace, it appears that we may be looking to the past to power our future.

Between the 1930’s and 1950’s there was a concerted effort throughout Scotland to develop hydro power stations to produce electricity to meet the increasing demands of consumers. This method of generating power was not new; it had been used on a small scale for decades before. An example of this is at Garlogie, nine miles West of Aberdeen, where water had been used to generate power and latterly electricity.

The hydro power station at Garlogie – on the site of a former woollen mill – was recently the subject of a feasibility study which was undertaken by Aberdeenshire Council. It investigated the potential for reinstating the station to once again generate electricity and we were contacted to undertake inspection work.

The power station was installed in 1923 following the closure of the woollen mill at the turn of the 20th century, but last produced electricity five decades ago.

We were approached by Aberdeenshire Council to inspect much of the support infrastructure of the power station to identify the condition of the asset.

The power station is fed from the nearby Loch of Skene via a weir and dam which were built when the hydro scheme was installed. Water is then released back into a nearby burn.

Using a range of visual inspection technology, including waterproof CCTV’s and tractors, we were able to examine the cast ducts and tunnels without having to expose personnel to confined spaces. The equipment allows us to provide video evidence of what we discover and explore places which the eye cannot see.

Our investigations provided a wide range of data which the council needed, and established that the infrastructure is in a great condition considering it has not operated since the 1960’s.

The tractor is a small, rugged four or six wheeled machine fitted with zoom, pan and tilt cameras and is small enough to fit into pipes. Some are designed to be explosion proof which allows them to undertake inspections in hazardous areas. They are a versatile inspection solution.

Estimates suggest that the power station will potentially generate between 50 and 100 kW of ‘green’ electricity and Aberdeenshire Council hope that the Garlogie project could be the first of many in the area.

It is interesting that we are looking to the past as a means to power our future.There are many other similar schemes throughout the country that could potentially be reinstated to generate electricity.