MCFly 6- Hydro-power to the people

Here is the full version of the story that appears in the dead-tree format version of MCFly #6. Comments welcome

An active community in New Mills, Derbyshire has demonstrated what can be achieved with a little innovation and a lot of dedication by launching the UK’s first community-funded hydro electric scheme. The basic idea behind the project is to generate green electricity from water running down the local Torr weir (a low dam built across a river to divert/direct flow) on the Goyt river. Torrs Hydro New Mills Limited was also set-up to allow the local community to own the hydro electric scheme which will help regenerate the area and also promote environmental sustainability.

The total cost of the project – around £226,000- was raised through various grants and by selling shares at the cost of £1 with a minimum shareholding of 250. All the four directors are dedicated locals and over 50% of the shareholders are form the New Mills area. Even better, the scheme will have paid for itself in a couple of years as the turbine has a lifespan of around 40years.

Water Power Enterprise- a small social enterprise which encourages the set-up of small-scale hydro plants to reduce carbon emissions- helped to launch the project in 2006 by highlighting the potential of the the Torr weir in the region. The scheme is part of an idea to reclaim and utilise weirs which were built across British rivers in the 18th and 19th centuries to control water flows and drive wheels for nearby mills.

The community-owned Archimedean Screw, which generates electricity from water flowing downhill will produce an estimated 70Kw 45% of the time and will just turn off when river levels are low. Using this calculation, approximately 260,000 Kilowatt hours of electricity will be generated annually through clean and sustainable means- that’s enough electricity to power 70 houses. The scheme hopes to eventually supply power to around 18,000 homes. Steve Welsh of Water Power Enterprises stated; “This scheme will save the equivalent of 13 million car miles in its lifetime. It will be a tremendous local resource.”

Torrs Hydro New Mills is also lobbying parliament to change the current legislation around renewable energy and to raise awareness of the current financial imbalance for renewable energy schemes which produce more than 50KWh. They want the changes to encourage a network of communities to embrace hydro-power and tap into renewable resources available through weirs across the North of England. Check this link for more information and to sign the petition: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Torrs-Hydro/.

‘Preserve the Torrs’ is a website which is campaigning against the development, stating that the “Torrs Riverside Park is a unique asset that makes New Mills distinctive. Yet it is threatened at its heart by a large industrial development in the picnic area. We need to protect this valuable waterfall attraction and preserve it for future generations and the benefit of our town and its visitors.”. For further information see their website: http://www.torrs.org.uk/index.asp

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