Historic Scotland and Norwegian partners to capture development of hydro-industry


THE PIONEERING role of Scotland and Norway in the development of hydro-electric power is to be celebrated in a new digital partnership between the two nations announced by First Minister Alex Salmond today.

The First Minister, who is undertaking trade and political engagements in Norway over two days, announced the initiative at an international renewable energy conference in Bergen. Hydro-power will be the focus of the first Digitising Heritage project, providing a unique online archive, cataloguing individual hydro sites across the world and capturing archival planning and architectural documents, technical and site data as well as archive images and film footage.

The site, to be officially launched later this year, is being developed by Historic Scotland in partnership with the Norwegian Museum of  Hydropower & Industry and will enable users to capture information about their local or global historic environment. 



Norway and Scotland have a long history of collaboration in the hydro industry. The hydro scheme that powered Norway’s first aluminium smelter, at Stongfjorden, was developed by the British Aluminium Company, based on their experience of the Kinlochleven scheme they completed in the Scottish Highlands in 1909.

The North of Scotland Hydro Board, established following nationalisation in 1943, developed its plans building on technical developments pioneered in Norway.  The First Minister said:  “Scotland has a long tradition of generating hydro-power, from its early beginnings in small-scale water-powered mills for agriculture, to the development of industrial hydro-electric schemes which brought employment, and for the first time, power to many remote and rural areas of the country from the 1940s.”

“Technology developed by Scots – from the rock-fill gravity dam pioneered at Loch Trieg and James Williamson’ round arched buttress dams – were adopted for use in Norwegian schemes, whilst Scottish schemes were inspired by the technology developed to respond to the scale of developments undertaken in Norway.”

“Pumped storage technology developed at Ben Cruachan in the 1960s, was adapted and developed in Norway, which today has a huge storage capacity that can play an hugely significant role in the future European energy grid network – allowing, for example, excess power from Scotland, to be channelled to Norwegian hydro schemes for use at times of lower output from offshore renewables off our coast. “Hydro continues to play an important role in Scotland, generating a record 5.3GWh last year – almost 40 per cent of Scotland’s renewable electricity output in 2011 – and employing just over 500 people.  This new project will capture, for current and future generations, the tremendous vision and feats of engineering of our forebears, in Scotland and Norway.  And it will provide a wealth of information that can be used as an educational resource for school pupils and students as well as an important research source for industry and academics.”


The development of the hydro-electric industry for public supply in Norway in the 1920s and 30s as a nationalised enterprise provided a model for the aspirations of NoSHEB.  In particular, the creation of stations in remote parts of Norway, providing power to local communities, inspired the strong commitment made by NoSHEB to use the development of hydro in Scotland as a tool with which to regenerate the Highlands. Randi Bartvedt, director of the Norwegian Museum of Hydropower and Industry said: “Norwegian Museum of  Hydropower and Industry are looking forward to continuing the good co-operation with Scotland and the digitising heritage project. The museum has already good partners in Statkraft and the Norwegian Water and Energy directorate regarding digitising the Norwegian hydropower history, and as a possible future UNESCO site we want to expand our horizon and contribute to the collation of the global hydropower history. “We hope that other countries will follow and join us in the project of collecting information about historical hydropower site.”

David Fleetwood, who is leading the project for Historic Scotland said:  “The Digitising Heritage initiative is a unique opportunity to tell the extraordinary and largely untold story of howScotlandand Norway pioneered the development of hydropower, the first large-scale form of renewable energy.   Historic Scotland is very excited to be taking the project forward with partners in Norway, and to be able to celebrate this little-known heroic history, which spans a period from the early nineteenth century to the present day.

To many people the ground-breaking role played by both countries is a virtually unknown story, but the work of the initiative has shown how in many instances both nations were world leading pioneers in the development of the industry worldwide.  “We are delighted to be able to share this history using the pioneering digital resources available to both countries and to continue the tradition set by the industry from its earliest days of working at the cutting edge globally.

The Digitising Heritage project will provide a globally significant resource through which the heritage ofScotlandandNorwaycan inspire partners around the world to celebrate their own untold stories of history, whether on a local or international stage. Developing partnerships with key players in the global energy markets, such as Statkraft, will also enable us to use the history of the industry to inspire the next generation of engineers to ensure that it remains a vibrant part of our energy provision in years to come, proving that heritage can make a strong contribution to building successful futures.”