A Highland settlement once dubbed the Electric Village could be the site for a new combined hydro-electric plant and windfarm.
Kinlochleven, which lies on the West Highland Way, is being touted for an enlarged scheme to supply renewable energy for Lochaber residents. The town, at the head of Loch Leven, grew at the beginning of the 20th century around an aluminium smelting works. Now the owners of the former works want to use the land they still own to generate more electricity.
Steel pipes lead into the former smelting works
The Scottish Government is being asked to approve the building of a hydro plant at Loch Eilde Mòr, 350m (1,150 ft) above the town. Alcan Aluminium is also testing wind speeds on Meall an Doire Dharaich and Meall na Duibhe, overlooking the loch and the village.
All applications in Scotland to build power plants over a certain size need ministerial approval.
Loch Eilde Mòr already has a dam and pipeline built as part of an earlier hydro scheme which used water from the loch and the Blackwater reservoir 4km (2½ miles) away, to power the original aluminium smelting works in Kinlochleven, which closed in 2000. Electricity from the existing scheme is now fed to the larger Lochaber smelter near Fort William.
Although pipelines scar the hillside above Loch Leven, any development of wind turbines in the area would be bound to be controversial, standing as they would on the southern edge of the Mamores and only 8km (5 miles) from the summit of Ben Nevis.
The West Highland Way, Scotland’s most popular long-distance trail, passes within 2km (1 mile) of Meall an Doire Dharaich.
Alcan, which was Canadian-owned until its takeover last year by Rio Tinto, owns 140,000 acres of land in the area. Part of the former Kinlochleven smelting works was converted into the Ice Factor, which has the country’s highest indoor ice-climbing wall.
The building of the original hydro schemes in the 1900s earned the settlement the soubriquet of the Electric Village. Alcan has handed over some of its former land holdings six years ago to a trust which aims to put them to community and tourism uses.
Representations about the proposals must be made to the Scottish Government’s energy-consents unit by 15 February.