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Community hydro power project close to realisation

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 5 November 2013 at 12:20 pm

The water that is regularly let out of the Dove Stone reservoir used to tumble, unchecked, into the River Tame. 

The so-called compensation flow was simply part of United Utilities obligations in maintaining the reservoir and was of scant interest to local residents so long as the water from their taps continued to flow. 

That was until some local residents came up with the idea of using the compensation flow to drive a turbine which would then provide power for the community.

Now, as the concrete that will form the footings for the turbine house is on the brink of being poured, a five-year dream of harnessing local resources to create local power, is about to become a reality. 

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

It takes a lot of energy and tenacity to turn a bold idea into a workable reality and Saddleworth community hydro scheme is living proof that communities who dream big can achieve great things.

Dove Stone Reservoir, high in the Southern Pennines, was opened in 1967. The compensation flow that dumps 16 million litres of water per day into the River Tame, was originally channelled via a gravitation system to power the paper mill situated directly below the reservoir. 

When the paper mill closed in 2001, this compensation water gushed directly into the river. The Saddleworth community hydro scheme will re-harness this great power, driving 185 litres per second of falling water through a 51kW cross flow turbine, providing enough energy to power to more than 70 homes. The scheme will save in the region of 1,000 tonnes of CO2 each year.  

This is the UK’s first community-owned high head power system, and it came about at a time of great public antipathy towards the growing proliferation of wind turbines in the region. 

Bill Edwards is a founding director of the steering group, which has around 20 active members.

“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 steering group contracted Renewables First Environment to guide them from feasibility, design and planning through to construction. Financing was sought, and finally secured via a £223,000 grant from the Rural Development Programme for England’s rural carbon challenge fund. The rest of the money, to pay for the £373,000 installation was raised through share offers, which managed to secure £150,000 of extra finance in just three months. 

The 170,000kW generated annually by the scheme is likely to be largely sold at market value to United Utilities, to power other operations they run in the area. Any excess energy will be fed back into the grid and it is expected that the scheme will generate an income of around £14,000 a year. 

The turbine will also generate an income by qualifying for Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs). ROCs are green certificates issued to operators of accredited renewable generating stations for the eligible renewable electricity they generate. ROCs are normally used by energy suppliers to demonstrate that they have met their renewable energy obligations. Where they fail to meet their obligations through their own generation, they may purchase ROCs from other generators, such as the Saddleworth community hydro scheme. 

Saddleworth Community Hydro Ltd is the not-for-profit co-operative set up by shareholders to own and run the scheme. Initially, much of the income generated by the scheme will be set aside for maintenance and to service any possible share redemption requests. However, from year two, shareholders will receive interest on their investment of around four per cent. Any profit beyond that is earmarked for local community projects that also promote sustainable energy and education projects in local schools. 

More Information

YouGen guide to hydro electricity

From the blog

Hydro turbine generates power at Devon Wildlife Trust (March 2012)

Support for microgenerators increases (April 2009)


If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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2 comments - read them below or add one

Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 6 November 2013 at 2:14 pm

Hi Shaughan 

I am surprised that you think you are eligible for non-domestic renewable heat incentive, as I would expect a single dwelling to be eligible for the domestic  RHI scheme which starts next year. Is the dependent's annex heated from the main dwelling? Or separately? If the latter, I'd expect them to be treated as two separate properties, probably. But I know that DECC and Ofgem are still working on the definitions for the domestic RHI.

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shaughanComment left on: 6 November 2013 at 2:29 am

we have a single dwelling that has a Dependents Annex which is separately rated for council tax. this makes us eligible for 20 year RHI. as a single domestic dwelling will we be tax exempt onthe non-domestic RHI?

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