CHESHIRE homeowners are missing out on the potential for cheap, green energy produced by their local streams and rivers, a meeting of environmentalists in Northwich will hear on Thursday, July 10.
The Cheshire Waters Forum will hear from three experts and enthusiasts on micro-hydropower. The forum is organised by the Mersey Basin Campaign, Cheshire County Council and Vale Royal Borough Council.
A new report on micro hydropower in Cheshire, unveiled for the first time at the forum, will identify 14 planned projects across the county but says this still leaves significant untapped potential.
Its author, postgraduate student Evelyn Bateman, said development cash is the main obstacle and usually only stretches to a feasibility study: “Funding is needed to push these schemes forward, but where you can get it is difficult to say – there is no clear guidance.”
Her report found just two active micro hydropower schemes in the whole of Cheshire.
One of them is the Pedley Wheel, whose developers have helped install similar wheels in rural communities in Africa and Sri Lanka, as well as elsewhere in the UK. The 2.6m wheel was built in 1991 by Paul Bromley to power his home. Constant development work has led to a simple, more efficient design that is easy to construct in rural villages in the developing world.
Fred Bowers of the Weaver Rotary Club will also call for a hydropower project to be put in place in Nantwich.
Although still rare, small-scale hydropower schemes are gathering pace across the UK. A £250,00 scheme in New Mills in Derbyshire will start producing up to 70Kw of power this month and will supply the local Co-op supermarket.
Micro hydropower schemes are defined by the Environment Agency as those that produce less than 5 megawatts of power.
There are three different ways of producing hydropower on a small scale. Water turbines have been in use for many years and work well on fast flowing water like mountain streams. Water wheels, such as the Pedley Wheel, are able to take advantage of low-head, low-flow rivers. Lastly, a recent innovation is a modern twist on the ancient Archimedean screw, which can be used anywhere there is a weir.