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Tongland Power Station Turns 75 - But Retirement Not In Sight

01/02/2010

Tongland Hydro-Electric Power Station in Kirkcudbrightshire, owned by ScottishPower, celebrated its 75th anniversary today (1st February). Alex Fergusson, MSP for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale, visited the station to unveil a commemorative plaque and officially open the revamped Visitor Centre.

The station was completed in 1935, the same year that Elvis Pressley was born, as part of the wider Galloway Hydro Scheme. The idea of generating hydro electric power in Galloway was first conceived by two local residents, Major Wellwood Maxwell and Captain Scott Elliot. In 1923 they consulted a civil engineer, Colonel William McLellan, of Merz & McLellan consulting Engineers, who confirmed the potential for a major hydro scheme in Galloway.

At that time, however, there was little local demand for electricity and no means of exporting it economically to other areas. In 1926, with the advent of the National Grid, it became feasible to form a company.

Proposals were approved by Parliament in 1929, construction began in 1931 and the scheme was fully operational in 1936, making it the first major integrated hydro-electric complex in Britain for public electricity supply.

Colonel McLellan did not live to see the project completed. When he died, in 1934, its construction was already well advanced.

The ‘modernist’ white turbine hall at Tongland is widely regarded as being ahead of its time in architectural terms. The three generators within the turbine hall, which are still the original machines, have a maximum output of 33MW. Tongland is the largest of the stations in the scheme, which has a combined maximum output of 109MW.

Just last year ScottishPower pledged £20 million of investment in its hydro stations across Scotland which will ensure that the Galloway Hydro Scheme will continue to operate well beyond its 100th birthday.

Recent investment also includes the revamp of the popular visitor centre at Tongland, which now boasts a range of new features. As well as telling the story of the Galloway Hydro Scheme, the centre now also includes educational areas where visitors can learn more about hydro power and about the environmental and safety issues faced by the scheme. The centre will be open for pre-arranged school visits and to other interested groups from today.

Stuart Ferns, ScottishPower’s Galloway Hydro Scheme Manager, said: “The Galloway Hydro Scheme is a fantastic feat of engineering that continues to perform extremely well today, generating enough electricity, 240 GWh, on an annual basis to power over 60,000 homes. The station at Tongland still consists mainly of original equipment, which is testament to the high standards of the design and the continued careful management of the facility by ScottishPower.

“We are also delighted to have revamped the visitor centre, which has been a popular educational attraction in the past and we look forward to welcoming a new generation of interested school parties and groups.

“With recent investment and further careful maintenance, the station at Tongland and the wider Hydro Scheme will continue to be the largest form of electricity generation in the South of Scotland for many decades to come.”

Alex Fergusson, MSP for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale, said: “I am delighted to have been asked to open the magnificently refurbished Visitor Centre today, the 75th anniversary of the opening of Tongland power station.  It says a great deal for those who conceived the original idea of a Galloway hydro scheme back in the 1920s, and for those who built it in the 1930s, that its production of electricity is probably even more important to our economy today than it was when it was first commissioned.  I therefore applaud ScottishPower’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that Tongland continues as a sustainable source of energy production, and also ensuring that the public can appreciate both its history and its relevance through this excellent Visitor Centre.”

Media Information: Paul Ferguson – 0141 566 4515 / 07702 665 924

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