Conon Hydro-Electric Power Scheme

The Conon Hydro-Electric Power Scheme, which lies to the north of the Affric-Beauly Scheme, is centred on Strathconon and Strath Bran, 15 miles (25 km) west of Dingwall. It was built by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board under Tom Johnston (1881 - 1965) and developed in 3 stages between 1946 and 1961. There are 7 dams and power stations with more than 20 miles (32 km) of tunnels and 15 miles (24 km) of aqueducts.

The first stage of development involved the diversion of water into Loch Fannich which was raised via a rockfill dam. The tunnel leading to the Grudie Bridge Power Station required blasting out a rock-plug beneath the loch and was popularly known as Operation Bathplug.

The second stage of development focused on Conon Valley where dams were built at Loch Droma and in Strath Vaich to create high level reservoirs. Water descends to a power station at Loch Glascarnoch, a man-made reservoir with a substantial dam 28m (92 feet) high and 510m (1673 feet) long, and travels on to Mossford power station. It is then discharged into Loch Luichart, which drains the area around Achnasheen. The Loch Meig dam diverts more water into Loch Luichart, which then powers the largest station in the scheme (Luichart) at the confluence of the Rivers Meig and Conon. The River Bran is diverted into the Achanalt Power Station where there is an unusual fish pass comprising a series of natural and artificial pools. Lastly, on the River Conon, is the Torr Achilty dam and power station.

The last stage of development involved the construction of two dams separated by a small hill, to create Loch Orrin which feeds the Orrin Power Station on the S shore of Loch Achonachie in Strath Conon. Fish ladders are found on several of the dams, with one of particular sophistication at Orrin. The stations are run by the privatised Scottish & Southern Energy Plc, headquartered in Perth, with an annual turnover of £2.3 billion. They generate a total of 116 megawatts of power.

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