Construction work has started on a project that will see development of three separate hydro schemes near Achnacarry in the Scottish Highlands, all linked by a 9.5km private grid network.

The three mutually supporting schemes, being developed by Green Highland Renewables, are located on the north shore of Loch Arkaig, and have a total capacity of 2.5MW.

The projects, which are 750kW, 500kW and 1250kW, will be powered by Austrian Kössler turbines and are being financed by Triple Point, the investment management group, which has now supported five Green Highland Renewables projects since 2010.

“Loch Arkaig is quite remote, with challenging topography, and the cost to connect each scheme to the grid individually would have been prohibitive," said Green Highland Renewables Chief Executive Officer Richard Round. "However by linking them together with a dedicated private grid, which then ties into the local distribution network, we can make all the projects generate an economic return.

“This is an innovative and holistic approach we have already used successfully in a number of other developments, and as degression of the hydro feed in tariff starts to bite, we will continue to be innovative in how we build and finance schemes," Round concludes.

The schemes will be constructed by MAM Contracting, and all three are due to complete in 2015.

Two of the developments, Allt Dubh and Loch Blair, lie fully within the Achnacarry Estate, whilst the third, Allt Cheanna Mhuir, lies partly onForestry Commission Scotland land. The local Achnacarry, Bunarkaig and Clunes Community Group will receive a royalty payment in addition to a community benefit of £5000 per MW per annum.

Green Highland Renewables first began work on the Achnacarry projects in 2009, with much of the time since then spent waiting for a grid connection date. Consents were secured in 2013.

The company said it is also looking at two further projects in the immediate area, one of which will commence in 2015.