The first successful public supply of hydro electricity provided power to the Benedictine Abbey in Fort Augustus, at the west end of Loch Ness, and to 800 inhabitants of the village. The year was 1890. It was to be another 40 years before the first large-scale scheme came into operation, in 1930. This development, at Rannoch and Tummel Bridge in Perthshire, was built by the Grampian Electricity Supply Company
With increasing power demand nationally, six more generating stations were added to the local scheme. The Gaur unit was the first one in Scotland to be automated. Using the cascade system, water is used a number of times to generate power on its way to the sea.
In 1948, the Electricity Supply Industry in Britain was nationalised. The assets of the Grampian Electricity Supply Company and other public producers in northern Scotland were taken over by the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board. Its challenge was to combine these existing assets with new schemes which would be built over the next 20 or so years, to harness the water power of the Highlands.
Then, as now, new development was greeted with concern for the environment and amenity. Many feared that the construction of power stations and dams would damage tourism which was already a major employer in Scotland.
Today, what was once feared as a threat to tourism, now actually attracts visitors. The dam and fish ladder at Pitlochry, a town which once closed its doors to North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board officials, is now a major tourist attraction, visited each year by over 500,000 people from all over the world.