Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) is inviting interested parties to help develop the potential for run-of-river hydro-electric schemes at locations across the country and to come forward with proposals for development.
Roseanna Cunningham, environment minister, announced the move at the opening of RWE Npower renewables' new hydro scheme at Inverlael.
Cunningham said: 'Tackling the impact of climate change is a number-one priority for everyone – and that is why the Scottish government has committed to 50 per cent of Scotland's electricity being generated from renewable sources by 2020.
'Small-scale hydro schemes make an important contribution to our renewable energy capacity and the one at Inverlael, built on the national forest estate, is a good example of how the private sector and the Scottish government can work together to take Scotland towards a greener future.
'The national forest estate has more to contribute towards realising our commitment to renewable energy and the Commission is pleased to announce that it is inviting interested parties to come forward with proposals and suggestions for more small-scale hydro schemes on the national forest estate.'
Existing small-scale hydro developments on the national forest estate – such as at Braevallich near Loch Awe, Garbhaig at Loch Maree and Glenskiagh near Garve – can generate 11.9MW of power.
Plans are underway to develop schemes that can generate a further 17MW and it is estimated that there is further potential of at least 50MW – enough to power 40,000 homes.
As well as looking for commercial partners, the Commission will continue to welcome approaches from communities with an interest in developing local hydro schemes.
FCS serves as the Scottish government’s forestry directorate and manages the 665,000 hectare national forest estate.