60th Anniversary of the Clady Hydro Scheme

ESB’s Donegal Stations, in conjunction with ESB Generation & Trading Community Relations, are delighted to support Forbairt Dhún Lúiche festival, which runs from 28th July to 5th August.

The opening of the festival takes place in the Dunlewy community centre at 8pm on Friday 2nd August, with a pop up exhibition celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Clady Scheme and all are welcome to attend. The display features previously unseen photographs captured during the construction of the scheme and will open again to the public on Sunday 4th and Monday 5th August between 2pm and 4pm, in the community centre. A second similar exhibition will run in An Chúirt Hotel for the duration of the month of August.

ESB’s Clady hydro-electric power station has been harnessing clean energy from the Clady river in North Donegal since 1959. Upon the arrival of the ESB, the Clady River was a part of the old Hill Estate. Initial investigations at Gweedore and Dunlewy started in 1943, with a more detailed survey in 1951. Construction commenced in 1954, with substantial civil engineering works such as Gweedore Weir and a 2.5km-long headrace canal developed. The works also involved raising the level of Dunlewy Lough.

There was little industry in the region before the Clady Scheme and locals were dependent on seasonal migration, mostly to Scotland. The construction of the scheme provided a significant boom for the area, with much of the male workforce employed by the civil works contractor, Malachy Burke Ltd, at some stage of the five-year construction. The labour rate at the start of the work in 1954 was one shilling and eleven and a half pence but this had reached two shillings and ten pence by February 1958.

Automation of the station was completed in February 1997, which allowed the station to be run under local operator control, or automatically, according to water levels with a link installed to ESB’s hydro control centre in Turlough Hill.

In 2017, ESB invested €1.8m in a major upgrade in the station, meaning it will continue to serve the 38kV Donegal network with clean, reliable and secure energy for many years to come. Clady remains our most northerly of our nine hydro-electric stations and boasts the longest penstock in Ireland, at 600 metres, which connects the intake gates to the powerhouse.

A small but visionary hydro-electric scheme, the station continues to supply the Donegal electricity network with the same 4,200kW of renewable electricity to this day, which is enough to meet the needs of 3,000 homes, farms and businesses in the county. The average annual output of the station is 16 million units of electricity, which offsets the emission of approximately 13,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

In the station’s 60-year history many staff have passed through its doors. The fact that the main components such as the turbine (manufactured by Riva) and generator (manufactured by Marelli) are original and still in pristine condition is a testament to all those staff and the quality of their work.

ESB’s roots in harnessing Ireland’s rivers for electricity and renewable energy is ever more important to the company in rising to the climate challenges of this generation. In this context, Clady station remains as relevant as ever, in making a modest but noteworthy contribution to Ireland’s climate change efforts.