The UK’s Stockport Community Hydro is a successful example of community investment. In this case, an English community near Manchester has invested in a micro hydro project, something that could be replicated here in Australia.
The Stockport project was to install two Archimedes screws in a nearby weir. These screws – called ‘Thunder’ and ‘Lightning’ – can operate independently and at variable speeds. Financed via a crowd sourced ‘community share offer’, the community also won some grants and took out some loans.
The members, who own the scheme, will be entitled to receive dividends when the scheme makes a profit. About half the investors live in the local Stockport area and all share a common interest in community-based schemes to generate renewable energy. The share offer is still open.
Steve Walsh from h2ope identified the Otterspool weir as an ideal site for a hydro scheme.
He approached the relevant authorities for approval and set in motion the process of creating a community group to take ownership and run the scheme.
In operation since late 2012 the scheme has been able to generate power even at times of low water levels, a first for schemes such as this.
The maximum output of the two turbines was originally forecast to be 68kw. To date the maximum output has been 51kw.
While initially this was disappointing, it does not seem to have affected the overall yearly output, probably because the turbines are actually performing much better than expected during periods of low river levels and this makes up the shortfall.
In the first full twelve months of operation which included the very dry summer of 2013, an output of 180,000kwh was achieved, against the original target of 220,000 kwh per year – a good result as there was only 80% of the usual rainfall. The group expects:
“to generate enough clean, green energy to power about 60 homes, 30% more than we originally thought, saving over 100 tonnes of CO2 per year, or over 4,000 tonnes during the estimated 40 year life of the project. The renewable power we will generate feeds into the national grid and profits will be distributed amongst local community projects and a return paid to our investors.”