Flooding halts progress on Thames hydro power plans

Henry Reily-Collins, left, from Culham, and James Walton, from Sutton Courtenay, hope a hydro-electricity plant could be built between the two villages

Henry Reily-Collins, left, from Culham, and James Walton, from Sutton Courtenay, hope a hydro-electricity plant could be built between the two villages

First published in News Witney Gazette: Photograph of the Author by

COMMUNITY hydro schemes to harness energy from the River Thames have hit delays.

Last year, it was announced that plans for 15 hydro power projects in the county could generate power for thousands of homes.

But while the first community scheme for a hydro power project at Osney Weir is due to finish in May – three months behind schedule – the second in Abingdon has hit further delays.

The plans ran into opposition last year when kayakers and canoeists raised concerns that they wouldn’t be able to pass, while anglers said it could harm fish.

But now it has been announced the Abingdon project, which could generate enough power for 120 homes, has been delayed for another year because of the floods.

A contractor for the building project has not yet been picked because they could not access the site over the winter following bad flooding.

 

The hold-up means work cannot start this year and be completed before winter, when rising river levels would make progress impossible.

Secretary of Abingdon Hydro Richard Riggs said: “It is frustrating, but we do have to get it right – we don’t want to get it wrong and be disappointed for years afterwards.

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“I feel that we are something of an example to others and they want us to succeed. It is a big project so it is important to set the example.”

Plans for another community hydro scheme on the River Thames between Culham and Sutton Courtenay have been unveiled.

And with an expert hydro engineer behind them, residents are confident the scheme will be running within five years.

Culham resident Henry Reily-Collins, 29, co-founded engineering company Hallidays Hydropower in 2007, which is based in Dorchester-on-Thames.

He said: “It has been a life ambition. I remember as a toddler walking across those weirs and feeling that energy and dreaming of being able to harness it.

“Over the last couple of years we have been taking it from an idea to a reality – now people are getting excited.

“I’m running this as a community project – we want people to step in and take the reins.”

The £2m project would see two Archimedes’ screws installed in one of six weirs between the two villages.

The money would be raised by community shares and the energy would be enough power for 300 homes a year.

A steering group of people from the two villages is being formed.

An application to build the hydro scheme has been submitted to the Environment Agency.

In the pipeline

THE Environment Agency is dealing with 15 hydro schemes on the River Thames in Oxfordshire.
Two – at Osney Mill, Oxford, and at Henley – are operational.
Permits have been granted for hydro schemes at Shiplake Mill, Osney Weir, Abingdon Weir and Buscot Weir.
But the first of the community schemes is at Osney Weir.
The remaining 13 are still in the planning stage or still being built, including the schemes at Culham, Goring, Sandford, Days Weir near Wallingford, and Godstow Weir in Wolvercote.
Details of the other private sites will not be known until a formal application has been submitted to the EA.

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