A Alban, H Scott, architect and supervising engineer and W M Morrison, General Manager, 1905-1909. Long, single-storey rectangular-plan powerhouse with granite rubble facings and reinforced concrete frame. Part of large high-head hydro-electric scheme which supplied electricity to adjacent aluminium smelter (demolished 2001). NE elevation of 17 buttressed bays each containing tall tripartite windows. Large opening in NW gable with metal roller door, 2 tripartite windows to right with small narrow door, occuli to pedimented gable. Tail race and pipes with control valves run alongside NE elevation.
Pitched Ballachulish slate roof with glazed ridge vents to NE and long rooflight.
INTERIOR: plain interior with Red Cheshire tiled floor, off-centre track (former wagon rail). Splayed windows painted and plastered interior brick walls. Travelling crane on steel buttresses, steel lattice roof trusses.
Statement of Special Interest
This powerhouse is prominently sited near the West Highland Way and is one of the last remaining buildings, along with the former carbon silos (see separate listing), of the former Kinlochleven Aluminium smelter. The powerhouse utilised the head of water created by the construction of the Blackwater Dam (see separate listing) to generate power for the adjacent aluminium smelter. It originally contained 11 pelton turbines which each ran two 1000 kW generators. The 21,353kW supply was used in the production of aluminium and carbon anodes for use in electrolysis.
The architectural treatment of the building in a plain classical style is an early example of a more functional design ethic being developed for industrial buildings, characterised by the sharply rectangular pilasters and severe profile of the building fused with the almost pediment like gable ends with central occuli. This plain classical modern design was influential on the later stylistic development of buildings for hydropower. The fusion of plain classical and purely functional elements represented the modern and dynamic perception of the industry at this time.
The Kinlochleven hydropower scheme was a significant advance in scale over the first development at Foyers, and represented a highly important civil engineering achievement, recognised internationally, on its completion in 1909. The total UK output for aluminium at this time was 2,500 tonnes, less than a third of the capacity of the Kinlochleven scheme. The scheme ceased to produce aluminium in 2000, but the powerhouse has been maintained in use providing power to the nearby Lochaber Smelter (see separate listings), with some of the turbines renewed at the time of closure in 2000.
The development of the Kinlochleven Scheme predates the 1943 Hydroelectric (Scotland) Act which formalised the development of Hydroelectricity in Scotland and led to the founding of the North of Scotland Hydroelectric Board. Those developments which predated the 1943 act were developed by individual companies as a response to particular market and topographic conditions, in this case as a direct requirement for the production of aluminium. The completion of a number of schemes (including Galloway, Grampian and those associated with Alcan - see separate listings) without a national strategic policy framework is exceptional as is the consistency of high quality aesthetic and engineering design across all of the schemes.
The smelter was one of the largest in the world at the time but due to changes in demand, outdated Soderbergh technology and economies of scale the smelter was closed in 2000, resulting in the removal of many of the structures, including the smelter. Five of the 11 generators were removed from the power house in 2000 to enable installation of new AC equipment. The power house now operates as a reserve power supply for the Alcan Lochaber smelter and contributes to the National Grid.
EXCLUSIONS: this listing excludes the pipes to the west of the powerhouse which convey water from the Valve House (see separate listing) and the tailrace to the west which conveys water to the River Leven.
(Reviewed as part of Hydroelectric Power Thematic Survey 2010)