Those of you who are familiar with the river will recall seeing this curious old stone building just downstream from the Ghillie's Office on beat 1. It was built in 1926 by the Macdonald family who owned a fine country house (now known as the Skeabost Hotel) to hold the turbine which supplied electricity to the house until 1954 when the National Grid came to Skye.
It took seven years for Three Esses to obtain ownership of the building in order to re-start the hydro scheme, thus providing much needed funds to keep the hatchery operation running.
The turbine was commissioned in the Spring of 2012 and then, after a very wet winter ( when we didn't want or need it of course ) it STOPPED RAINING. A lot of that summer was spent polishing that which was already shiny. Had there been any water in the river Dowsett would have taken option A and leapt into it once and for all.
Fortunately it did eventually start raining again and the following winter dumped all the rain we would have preferred during the fishing season.
The next three summers have provided record-breaking low rainfalls and have brought us to our knees but the winters have saved us again.
The lade carries water from the top of the hatchery and normally only provides river water for the wild salmon eggs we incubate here each winter. The sluice gate at the top regulates the flow. The lade was originally built using largely muscle power long before the hatchery was planned and carried water to the water chamber in the turbine house.
At the end of the lade the river water all but fills the water chamber even in low flow conditions.
These are the only remaining components of the old Francis turbine made by Gilkes and Co. in 1926. We did explore renovating it but sadly the costs were prohibitive. However we're not disposing of the remains but instead will clean up what's left in situ for visitors to marvel at.
We were able to start renovations to the turbine house in 2011 and although we don't have any " before " shots, we might tell you that the roof looked like part of an Amazonian rain forest with three mature trees settled on it. It now looks like this.
This is the beast. A 35 kW screw inside the tube. That's a 100 ton crane lifting her in.
We had to make modifications to the walls and base to accommodate the new turbine
Being lowered a millimetre at a time the tube finally came to rest in it's bed.
The 35kW Archimedes screw turns at around 30 revs per minute. The 40:1 gearbox steps the gennie up to over 1200 rpm.
One of two hydraulically controlled sluice gates which are constantly monitored for water height and flow to maximise performance and to ensure we don't take more water from the river than the environment agency allow.
New perimeter fencing and some landscaping have brought this beautiful old building back to life.
Inside the turbine house all the electronic and hydraulic controls hum quietly. You'd never know it was there. Already the turbine has moved several million cubic metres ( despite the intevening droughts ) of water and saved just under 250 tons of carbon. The natural fish pass remains unaltered and the screw itself is fitted with a rubber trim so that none of our fish, even the smallest fry, can come to harm if they're crazy enough to take a white-knuckle ride up or down the tube. Thanks Archimedes - for all the fish.