An exciting project which could bring hydro-electric power back to Chester a century after the revolutionary arrival of water-sourced energy to the city has been awarded £1 million to help get it flowing.

The University of Chester has been awarded a grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) Revolving Green Fund towards the Chester Weir Hydroelectric project – a partnership scheme with Cheshire West and Chester Council – which aims to return the grade II listed Dee pumping station to its original function as a hydro-electric station.

Situated at the weir, next to the Old Dee Bridge, the facility supplied the city with water-generated electricity for almost 40 years from 1913.

Its current function as a water pumping station is due to be decommissioned in April 2015 and discussions to explore whether it could be returned to its original purpose have been taking place for some time.

The university and Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) are already talking with environmental organisations, including the Environment Agency, and work is under way to begin a full environmental impact assessment which will look at effects on noise, vibration and bio-diversity.

Once feedback has been received and a final scheme designed a full consultation will begin, working closely with those who have expressed an interest so far and wider afield – currently planned to begin in mid-autumn 2013. 

Alice Elliott, sustainability manager at the university and its project lead for the proposed scheme, anticipates that the project will not only create energy, but will help the university to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by around 12%. It also has the potential to provide a wide range of social, economic and environmental benefits for the wider community and CWaC.

She said: “This is a unique opportunity to have a positive impact on river conservation and tap into an abundant local source of renewable energy, thereby reducing our reliance on fossil fuels as a community.  That energy will also create real benefits for the community by potentially generating a financial return that is open for anyone to invest in.”

George Ablett, CWaC’s project manager, said: “Renewable energy is essential to the environment, society and economy. If taken forward, a scheme to return hydro-electricity to the Dee could create largest potential of water-sourced power in the borough.

“From early discussions on this project with residents, businesses and stakeholders there has been considerable interest in bringing the project forward. The scheme has the opportunity to become a leading project nationally of how to install renewable power in an urban environment to the benefit of everyone.

“We are at the beginning of what will be an extremely exciting project and I can assure local residents that there will be ample opportunity to have their say.”