Goring & Streatley fishing for hydro power

May 2008: The twin communities of Goring in South Oxfordshire and Streatley in West Berkshire, which together straddle the rural River Thames, are bidding to invest in their very own locally-owned renewable power scheme. The plan, which could involve an attractive hydro turbine with a 15 kW power output being installed on one of the picturesque weirs between the two villages, is the brainchild of a team of dedicated residents who have formed the Goring & Streatley Sustainability Group (GSSG). Local man and GSSG committee member Dave Holt is the ringleader for this exciting and in many ways ground-breaking hydropower project.

The idea has been to avoid the usual complexities and expenses of ensuring fish protection on the Thames by choosing the 'Archimedes spiral' type of turbine. Amongst various other benefits, including aesthetics, this technology is fish-friendly: owing to the size and simplicity of the straight 'screw' design, the piscatorial inhabitants of the river can pass right through without damage. This would be one of the very first of its type constructed in the UK there is already one operating in Devon and certainly the first in the entire South East region.

The Environment Agency, which controls the river and owns the weir, has been helpful to date in advising on the project and agreeing in principle to lease the turbine location to the eventual owners. GSSG hopes that that the power will be used to benefit the local community and will certainly reduce emissions.

The project is currently in the feasibility and design stage. More information about the scheme and GSSG's other activities is available at its informative website, www.gssg.org.uk.

Goring & Streatley Sustainability Group logo

Council Spends a Penny or Two on Solar PV

South Oxfordshire District Council have spent a few pennies on installing solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays on two public toilet blocks within their district. The arrays were installed in the spring on the conveniences at Goring public car park and Henley train station car park and are rated at just over 2kWp each. The two buildings have higher than imagined electricity requirements due to the provision of electric hand dryers, and these PV arrays will make a serious dent into the power drawn from the grid at both sites. They also act as high-profile examples of the myriad of options for installing solar PV systems on buildings. The two arrays were installed by the Wembley-based company PV Systems and benefited from a grant under the DTI's Major PV Demonstration Programme.

Solar panels

'Green Power' Production Returns to the Mill at Sonning

The Mill at Sonning The Mill at Sonning After many years of watching the energy in the Thames pass on by, the owners of the Mill at Sonning in South Oxon. will have taken delivery of a brand new, purpose built hydroelectric turbine with which to harness this natural, 'green' energy source. After several months of preparative work the contractors, Derwent Hydroelectric Power began the final stage of installation of the 18.5 kWe turbine on Wednesday 1st June, 2005.

As well as putting their own resources into the project, the mill have secured additional funding from a well-known corporate donor, Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council and hope to generate in the region of 162,000 units of renewable electricity a year.

Eileen Hughes, owner of the mill, said, 'It was my late husband, Tim Richards, who instigated this project a few years ago, having been involved in hydro schemes in South America for many years. My daughter, Sally Hughes, also Managing Director, and David Vaas, our General Manager have restarted the scheme and it is terrific to see it reaching its conclusion and to realise we will be generating our own 'clean power' in a matter of days.'

The Mill at Sonning is home to a dinner theatre of national renown and the project will bring the benefits of renewable energy to a wide audience as well as demonstrate to other mill owners in the region what is possible at other sites.

The Mill at Sonning The Mill at Sonning

Ideas Flow at South East Hydro Power Conference

Weir More than 100 people packed out the hall at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford , Surrey on 19th May 2004 to hear about the latest progress made and plans for new low-head hydro schemes.

Conference Report

The conference began with a background and context to this interesting regional renewable energy resource. Presentations were made by TV Energy and the Environment Agency (Merylyn McKenzie-Hedger and Alan Butterworth). Ian Bacon of TVE referred to the major review that had recently been completed by TVE with partner Montgomery Watson Harza (Ian Davison). This report can be downloaded under 'South East Hydro Report', below.

These presentations were followed by a range of case study examples presented by RWE Innogy (Alastair Gill) on the Romney Weir project, IT Power (Jeremy Thake, replacing Jamie O'Nians), ISET (Jochen Bard) comparing and contrasting the German experience and Derwent Hydro (Ollie Paish) picking up on the major issues surrounding the development of the low head hydro resource. TradeLink (Bob Middleton) discussed the complexities of grid connection and trading issues. Finally, the conference was treated to two stories of local action from Somerset. On a group action from the South Somerset Mills Group (Keith Wheaton-Green) was followed by a personal account from Wallbridge Mill (Martin Whitfield).

Points that came out of the discussion sessions are as follows:

  1. There is some confusion over the term 'abstraction licence' when water is not really abstracted for hydro schemes. Operators felt that a renaming of the licence required would be beneficial. Perhaps a 'use of flow licence'? Wider European experience might be helpful here, as it was noted that the Environment Agency has a high profile role in Europe and leads on many related activities due to its best practice actions.
  2. There is a need to develop best practice for the regions and learn from the low head schemes now coming through the 'system'. Perhaps a specialist officer might be made available by the EA in each of the regions to focus and encourage this action?
  3. There is a need to carry out research and development with the schemes under development. It is recognised that the EA cannot cover the costs of this work and the industry will also struggle to get the necessary finances together. Hence, all effort should be made to work in partnership to draw down what funding is available (e.g. Clear Skies) and to lobby for more. TV Energy will assist with this action if requested and will discuss with sponsors and others. Potentially a 'cluster' action might be possible in the SE bearing in mind the very genuine success of such a move in the SW. TVE is investigating the setting up of a regional ESCo (Energy Services Company) which might be able to help.
  4. Likewise there is a need to obtain funding for feasibility studies which can be costly.
  5. There was a call from both the regulator (policy) and the industry to 'speed things up'. Excessive time seemed to be needed to go through various processes. Greater clarity and again the idea of 'best practice' will assist with this matter.
  6. Noted that new, more efficient technologies were being made eligible for grant funding.
  7. Connection issues and trading of green electricity is immensely complex if the full benefit of ROCs (Renewable Obligation Certificates, LECs (Levy Exemption Certificates) etc. are to be obtained. For smaller generators often a 'one-off' deal can be negotiated.

The conference was organised by Thames Valley Energy (TVE) with support from the Environment Agency, SEEDA and Hampshire County Council.

The presentations can be viewed below:

South East Hydro Power Report

After many months in preparation, the report 'Low Head Hydro Power in the South East of England. A Review of the Resource & Associated Technical, Environmental & Socio-economic Issues' has been completed. The study explores the various sources of low-head hydro power available, namely from old mill sites and weirs. It concludes that there is an enormous number of potential sites that might technically be used for electricity generation. It examines the issues that face this technology & makes recommendations for its further development in the region.

Report is available to download here

Sonning Mill low head hydro scheme confirmed

The Mill at Sonning A contract for the installation of an 18.5kW micro-hydro turbine was signed by Sonning Mill and Derwent Hydroelectric Power Ltd in early April this year, and installation is expected to commence in September this year. The project is now moving forward thanks to financial assistance from a national newspaper, Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council.

The mill is located on the Thames and is home to a dinner theatre of national renown. Milling has occurred on the site since at least the 11th Century and a wheel and the original flow structures are still in place. The power of the river has not been utilised for a number of years now, but the new scheme should generate around 162,000kWh per annum.

There have been no problems gaining the relevant planning and environmental consents and it is to the credit of the mill owner that she is keen to see the resource that has been flowing by untapped for many years, harnessed to provide a 'green' source of electricity. Hopefully, this will be the first of many similar mill based projects in the region and we will report again later in the year on the progression of this exciting project.

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