The Gala Water and its mill lade will soon once again become a primary energy source for Galashiels, following a successful application for major funding.
Local group Gala Water Hydro has achieved project funding of more than £1.5million from the Scottish Government, through the Energy Saving Trust and Local Energy Challenge Fund, to operate a community-based hydro electric project.
The project will see the introduction of a series of hydro-electric generators on the river and its historic mill lades which run through the town.
The project will initially create 150kW of power and it is hoped to achieve a level of 300-400 kW in the longer term.
This exciting revival of the use of water reflects the town’s proud industrial past and by reinstating the fabric of these structures, Gala Water Hydro will reinforce its cultural and social heritage for the future.
Award-winning Caddonfoot firm Water Engine Technologies – which began its first Borders-based project in Lilliesleaf last month – has been commissioned to carry out some of the installations, which will be similar to other successful community hydro schemes in the UK such as the Harlaw Hydro near Balerno and the Halton Lune Hydro near Lancaster.
Like them, Gala Water Hydro will be raising money via community shares.
Hans Waltl of BCAA Accountants, who are managing the project finances for Gala Water Hydro, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have successfully been awarded this grant funding which is testament to the hard work and vision of the Gala Water Hydro team who want to restore these historic lades and caulds to ensure our past also becomes our future.
“Our aim is that in decades to come a high proportion of the power generated in Galashiels will come from Gala Water Hydro or other renewable sources, assisting fuel poverty in the town, helping start up businesses and generating renewed pride in the town.
“The Gala Water that powered the historic mills will now power our future.”
And MP Calum Kerr said he was delighted to support the scheme from its early stages.
He said: “The project was first brought to my attention not long after I was elected and I’ve followed its development closely.
“So the news of this award is a cause for celebration on a number of levels – it’s a way of bringing a key part of the town’s heritage back to life, it will engage the community and the work will be delivered by a Borders firm.
“I’d encourage everyone in the town to get behind this scheme. This news represents another positive step that shows, alongside other efforts to regenerate Galashiels, that the town really is starting to turn a corner.
“But I also hope that this project sets a precedent – so that other Borders towns with similar waterways can replicate it too.”
Jennifer Ramsay, Local Energy Challenge Fund project manager, said: “Local Energy Scotland is delighted to be able to provide support through the Scottish Government’s Local Energy Challenge Fund to these innovative and inspirational projects.
“We are looking forward to working with the project teams over the next couple of years to see these ground-breaking ideas become a reality.”