The former school at Caddonfoot, which has sat empty since 2012, is now a centre for research into an exciting new form of renewable energy.
Water Engine Technologies, a company incorporated in February last year to market the Water Engine – an innovative micro hydropower technology that can harness the power of low head water courses with minimal ecological and visual impact – has taken over the building, which formerly served the area’s schoolchildren for 137 years.
Since July 2014, the company has been designing and fabricating its first demonstration Water Engine on a test site in Clydebank.
This device has been designed with an input rating of 1.3kW and is situated at its new research centre in Caddonfoot.
Now, they are working with several Borders communities with a view to making use of the watercourse infrastructure used so well by the mills a hundred years ago.
Company director Euan Hogg told us: “The Borders is a region built on its water courses. The infrastructure is in place already, it’s just not getting used.
“We have got planning permission for installing a 15kw system near Lilliesleaf and we are in discussions with SEPA to see how much water we are able to take out of the stream.
“We hope to begin construction there early next year. We are also talking to the Energise Galashiels group about the Mill Lade in the town, as well as community groups in Melrose and Selkirk.”
The Water Engine is built next to the waterway, so no dam has to be built.
Generating power is only one use: it crerates high-pressure fluid which can be used in a number of other applications, such as water irrigation, water treatment and desalination using reverse osmotic filters.
Opening the facility on Friday, Lord David Steel said: “I have long thought that the opportunities for water power here in the Borders were unfairly ignored. The reservoirs at Talla and Fruid and more recently Megget were constructed without generating turbines, which is absurd when every government is now stressing the need to produce electricity from renewable sources.
“I look forward to seeing the first installation near Lillieleaf, and wish the company well in its plans for the design, marketing and construction of these new engines.”
Euan Robson, chairman of Water Engine Technologies, thanked Lord Steel and added that because the water engine can work on a low head of water it can be used in more places than conventional hydro installations.
He said: “It is designed to have a minimal environmental impact and because of its relatively straightforward construction will be suitable for use in the developing world.”