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Making Waves: The Hydro Ness Project

This week in the first of our project takeover series we are delighted to introduce Katie Andrews, Climate Change Coordinator at The Highland Council, to talk us about her experience working on the exciting Hydro Ness project which is now in operation on the banks of the River Ness.

Hydro Ness is a £2.67m self-financing project delivered by Highland Council. This intervention will deliver a 92kW ‘Archimedes Screw’ hydroelectric scheme and interactive visitor experience on the River Ness. The Hydro Ness will provide a multitude of benefits to Inverness City and the wider Highland region, including but not limited to:

This is the project summary we use to try and convey the scale of the project. It covers a lot of the current and most pressing priorities for the organisation and, hopefully, is a reflection of a growing interest in climate change from society and our communities. In truth, the project is so much more multifaceted than we could ever possibly articulate (although if you gave me the chance I would probably try!). Regardless, these benefits wouldn’t be realisable without the help of our partners – this is the focus of my role.

Image provided by Airborne Lens

The Hydro Ness, situated adjacent to the Holm Mills Bridge on the banks of the River Ness.

Partnership working sounds great in principle, however,  it takes a huge amount of time and requires some really great partners who share your vision for the project. We, the Hydro Ness project team, have been privileged and lucky to work with some incredible partners; Visit Inverness Loch Ness, SSE Renewables, Science Skills Academy (SSA), University of Highlands and Islands, Scottish Canals, Highland and Islands Enterprise, Creative Services Scotland, Eden Court, Smarter Choices Smarter Places, and of course High Life Highland (HLH). 

Since I started on the project, Martin MacDonald, the Hydro Ness Project Manager, has always been clear this shouldn’t be seen as a ‘corporate project’. His ambition was for Hydro Ness to be something so positive and impactful for the city, that it would extend beyond the reach or remit of Highland Council (pretty ambitious eh?!). I loved this about the project. Something so grand, so different and so multifaceted that Highland Council couldn’t deliver without the help of others. And why would we want to? We chose partners who cared about the project, that could help elevate it – whether that was through softer elements or through closely aligning work they were already developing – and reach people in a way we, as a small project team, never could.

Two people in hard hats with metal gate backdrop. Hydro Ness, Inverness
Image provided by Airborne Lens

Katie Andrews, Climate Change Coordinator for the Highland Council, and Allan Henderson, the Construction Manager for the Hydro Ness, on site in April 2022.

Whether it was Emma Robertson (SSA) going above and beyond to help organise the naming competition - Hydro Ness used to be referred to as River Ness Hydro before a naming and poster competition was launched across schools in Highland - or Alan Hoseason (HLH) becoming the project’s unofficial IT guru and sorting all the tech for us…this was all additional work for the partners. They already had demanding workloads and competing priorities to worry about long before we came along, but they found the time because they believed in the project and the outcomes it will deliver. Young STEM enthusiasts in Highland deserve the same experiences and opportunities as the rest of the country and it is only right that Hydro Ness complements the amazing work organisations like SSA are already doing.

This is a big part of why I love my job. I get to work with so many different people – all caring, enthusiastic and hugely generous with their time – and develop an understanding of what values are most important to the respective partners and how positive change is delivered through a collaborative and equitable partnership model. Through Hydro Ness, we have seen first-hand what partnership working can do. Do I think Hydro Ness would be anywhere near as amazing without the help of our partners? Absolutely not. The ideas, kind words and the unwavering enthusiasm for the project helped fuel the team through countless ‘rough waters’ (this is the best Hydro pun I could come up with) and deliver something I really do think will inspire people and make them feel proud of the city. With further positive change on the horizon – Inverness Castle, Bught Park and Northern Meeting Park redevelopments – Hydro Ness is part of wider change that will transform the river and promote a better and more sustainable future for the city and region. I am immensely proud to be part of that.

"Hydro Ness is part of wider change that will transform the river and promote a better and more sustainable future for the city and region. I am immensely proud to be part of that."

Katie Andrews

Climate Change Coordinator

The Highland Council