Community Hydro Power project Nears Commission

Derbyshire hydro power project looks set to reach completion, reducing CO2 emissions and generating local funding.


Derbyshire residents are close to seeing a five-year plan come to its conclusion as their community hydro power project looks set to achieve its aim this springtime.

In the past, water was regularly let out of the Dove Stone reservoir, but residents decided that harnessing the power of that water could be much more beneficial than simply allowing it to run away down the river Tame unused.

It was suggested that a turbine could be used to harness the energy which was being lost in order to provide power to the community.

Ann Thorne, a local resident and member of the group behind the project, said before the new year: “It’s taken five years, but we are very close to starting construction. We’re hoping it will be fully commissioned in spring next year. It’s getting very exciting now.”

The project has taken a lot of energy and effort on the part of its supporters, but the Saddleworth community hydro scheme looks like it will be worth the work put into it.

Dove Stone Reservoir is high in the Southern Pennines and was opened in 1967. The compensation flow from the reservoir used to be utilised by a paper mill nearby, but since the mill closed in 2001 the water has gone straight to the river. This new scheme will provide power to over 70 homes and will save around 1,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Bill Edwards, a founder of the steering group of around 20 active members, says: “We began by looking for a better alternative to the wind farm,” he said. “In Saddleworth, water is much more significant than wind. There are more than 20 reservoirs in the area. Even though water moves more slowly than wind, it can generate much more energy – around 1,000 times more for the same amount of volume. So if you want to do your bit for the environment, this is a very cost effective way of doing it.”

The group got Renewables First Environment to guide them in terms of feasibility, design, planning, and construction. A £223,000 grant was also secured from the Rural Development Programme for England’s rural carbon challenge fund, and the rest of the money needed for the £373,000 installation was gained through share offers which managed to get together £150,000 of additional finance over just three months.

The power generated – 170,000kW annually – will most likely be sold at market value to United Utilities, who maintained the reservoir before the scheme began, to power other operations in the area. Excess energy will return back to the grid and the scheme is expected to generate an income of around £14,000 per year.

The turbine will also bring in income by qualifying for the Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs). ROCs are green certificates given to operates of accredited renewable generating stations for the renewable energy which they generate. ROCs are ordinarily used by energy suppliers to show that they have met their renewable energy obligations, and where they fail to do so they may buy ROCs from other generators such as the community hydro scheme.

The Saddleworth Community Hydro Ltd group is a non-profit co-operative run by shareholders. To begin with, much of the income generated will be set aside for maintenance and servicing. However, from year two onwards shareholders will be awarded interest on their investments of around 4%. Profit made beyond that is to be used for local community projects which also promote sustainability and education.

Image: Rachel Docherty

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