Planning permission has been granted for a micro hydro scheme on the River Don at Kelham Island in Sheffield, despite the fact that it will generate enough electricity to power just 20 homes per year, provided there is enough rainfall and the scheme is managed and operated with maximum efficiency. The scheme in Sheffield is not unique - many thousands of sites across the UK have been identified as 'suitable' for micro hydro development and they are being universally sold as a serious 'green' alternative, a key part of Britain's energy future and a lucrative 'community-based' investment that will help power the nation, paying sustainable dividends to those willing to part with their cash. This blog is a public resource designed to demonstrate the negative ecological impacts of 'low-head' or 'run-of-river' micro hydro schemes and asks why UK taxpayers are funding their development despite the fact that the evidence from the world over is that they do far more environmental damage than good.

Watch the film, 'Kelham Island Hydro', and ask whether what boils down to be a few kettles' worth of hydro-generated electricity is proportionate to the decimation of our little-understood and very fragile river ecosystems.

If you have problems viewing the film from here, please view on Vimeo or watch on Google where you can also download to your pc.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Kelham Island Hydro Abandoned!

This is the official statement from Sheffield Renewables on the Kelham Island hydropower project:

Kelham Island has always been a small scheme and therefore difficult financially. Following on from what we have learned from Jordan Dam, we have further concerns about the viability of this scheme. We do not currently have the resource within the group to work through these, therefore we are concentrating our efforts elsewhere for the foreseeable future.

We do believe it has a great potential for outreach and as a celebration of Sheffield’s culture, whilst providing a small but significant contribution to energy demand in the city. Therefore, if any opportunities arise for us to partner with organisations to enable this scheme to happen, we would be very pleased to do so.

Needless to say this is fantastic news for those who opposed the scheme in Sheffield and I'm very grateful to all those who signed the petition. The planning consent will expire in Jan 2015 but I really can't see a way back for it now, and wish Sheffield Renewables all the best in their new ventures, creating genuinely green solutions such as Solar PV arrays for the city.

The lesson from both these abandoned schemes which at first seemed so 'eco-friendly' and profitable, must surely be that the small-scale, low-head, hydropower simply cannot work efficiently and cost-effectively for either man or the environment and we are far better off looking towards genuinely sustainable and 'green' means of energy generation.

Of course the questions about Sheffield's weirs remain. They still continue to pose a barrier to fish migration and cause significant problems for bio-diversity in their canalised upstream sections. Here's an exciting prospect from the Irwell Rivers Trust, although I don't anticipate anything quite so radical happening in Sheffield any time soon!

Keep an eye on the changing image where you can clearly see the immediate improvements to the upstream section which was like a mill-pond before the weir was removed. Great work by all involved!

There's also excellent news from The Wandle Trust that two weirs are being removed from the Hogsmill. See here and here.

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