Click for Bookshop

Kinlochleven Hydro-Electric Scheme

A hydro-electric scheme which was associated with a former aluminium smelter, the Kinlochleven Hydro-Electric Scheme was built by the British Aluminium Company between 1905 and 1909. It draws water from the Blackwater Reservoir, which is fed from the expanse of the Rannoch Moor, to generate power for smelting aluminium. The demand for aluminium during the First World War brought an expansion of the scheme; 500 British soldiers and 1200 German prisoners-of-war constructed a 5-mile (8-km) long pipeline to bring more water from Loch Eilde Mor by a circuitous route via the Blackwater Reservoir to the power-house adjacent to the site of the former Kinlochleven Smelter.

The power-house contained eleven Pelton turbines, each of which turned two 1-megawatt (MW) DC generators, of which ten were generally in operation at one time. In addition, there were two 2 MW AC generators, giving a total power output of 24 MW. Some of the old machines at the rear of the power-house were removed to make way for a new 10 MW AC alternator in 1996 and the remainder decommissioned when two further similar alternators were installed in 2000. The decommissioned machines remain in situ, protected for their historical interest.

Since the smelter closed in June 2000, power is still generated at Kinlochleven although it is now largely used by the Lochaber Aluminium Smelter at Fort William, the remainder being sold to the national grid for public electricity supply. The station is remotely controlled from Fort William. At its peak the Kinlochleven Smelter employed 800 people and is today remembered by the "Aluminium Story" in the Kinlochleven Visitor Centre and Library built on part of the site of the former smelter.

The power scheme is operated by the Indian-owned GFG Alliance, who bought the scheme along with the Lochaber Smelter from Canadian multi-national Rio Tinto Alcan in 2016 for £330 million. In doing so, GFG became one of the most significant land-owners in Scotland, because of the extensive water catchment associated with the scheme.


Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry arrow

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better