http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2 ... ableenergy
Old mills revived as hydropower schemes take off
Paul Brown, environment correspondent
The Guardian, Monday 1 August 2005 11.25 BST
"If the Queen can do it, so can we," said David White, the secretary to the Stour Vale Mills hydrogroup. The 12 mill owners sitting round the kitchen table nodded in agreement.
The group at Peggs Farm, Sutton Waldron, Dorset, has just learned of the Queen's decision to have a hydrostation built in Romney Weir in the Thames to provide electricity for Windsor Castle.
Each one of the 12 mill owners along the Stour is planning to do likewise for their own homes, farms and businesses. They will export the surplus power to the surrounding area.
Mr White is a town councillor in Gillingham, Dorset. It was his idea to get the mill owners together, and he believes small hydroprojects can make a big contribution to Britain's green energy needs. There are thousands of existing and former mill sites in the UK suitable for generating electricity, and if all were used they could provide almost 10% of the country's power.
Mr White, who does not have a mill himself, had read of the rows about wind power that have split communities.
"It seemed to me that hydropower has all the advantages, it gives new life and use to these historic sites and buildings, and produces green energy - and everyone is in favour," he said.
The Queen's proposal on the Thames will cost £1m and produce 200kW, enough to light and heat the vast complex of buildings of her Windsor home.
The Stour mill owners have more modest aims, and a smaller river. Each will have their own scheme and their own generator. But the latest and smallest are made of plastic and cost as little as £3,000.
The largest of the Stour schemes will produce about a 10th of the power of Windsor's - still enough electricity for around 300 homes.
The smallest output will probably be at Peggs Farm, the venue for the meeting, where John Hooper still uses his 125-year-old water wheel daily. The three-metre wheel grinds grain for his 140 dairy cows, but on the first floor of the building is a cobweb-covered dynamo and a set of batteries that his grandfather installed in the 1930s to provide 50 volts of lighting for the farm. It worked until 1956 when the farm got mains electricity.
Mr Hooper now hopes to install a modern turbine for the power-hungry dairy and the farm.
"Overall I hope to produce a surplus to put into the grid," he says.
Colin Moore of West Mill, Stalbridge, plans to spend £38,000 producing up to 8kW to run his cattle feed factory. He reckons he will recoup his costs in 10 years. His electricity bills are around £5,000 year.
The Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - and its sustainability development fund - is helping the group finalise its plans.
Keith Wheaton Green, who has been involved with another award-winning scheme in south Somerset where 10 mills got together to produce power, says: "These kind of total river catchment partnership schemes have a great future."
Small-scale hydroprojects at mill sites is the next big push for renewable energy after wind power, and much less controversial.
Mr White said: "The idea of getting together as a group is to support each other through any planning difficulties with the agencies, and enter into partnerships with power companies.
"Even though each mill is different and has to have its own turbines, many of the problems are shared."
See also http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/10/14/d ... -you-dont/