Neen Sollars Community Hydro is building a 12.5kW hydroelectric installation at Tetstill Mill, Neen Sollars on the River Rea. The project is funded by a co-operative share issue and owned by local people. It will produce green electricity to the local electrical grid, providing around 20% of the domestic power use in Neen Sollars.
- practical generation of green electricity
- local involvement in owning and running a renewable generation system
- awareness raising and education in the local area
- a modest annual income for a local charity
- entirely conceived and executed by local people
- working alongside wider attempts to improve the ecological status of the Rea
Principle 6 of the International Co-op Principles states that co-ops help each other out – we were the lucky recipient of co-ops in action when Midcounties Co-operative gave us a very welcome £2,000 grant to help with the additional costs we’ve been incurring getting the turbine properly running. We’re very glad to say that the faulty actuator on the turbine has now been replaced and the turbine is now humming away, albeit at a reduced power level of 2kW until all the grid testing is complete.
A little while since our last update and a lot has happened. We have had the turbine up and running in test mode and it has produced some energy. The final step to consistent generation is unfortunately taking a lot longer than we hoped. Firstly we encountered some serious snags in the last stages of the civil work – see previous updates for the huge and rock-hard stump we found right in the place where the screen was supposed to go! The delay there had a knock-on effect on installation of the turbine assembly. Once the turbine was fully in place we encountered some problems with the grid voltages meaning each time we switched it on, it tripped out! Finally the ramifications of the delays and difficulties have caused cashflow problems for the co-op. This has all been especially frustrating because river flows have been good for the last few months, but we’ve been unable to benefit from this to make some much-needed income for the co-op.
We’re pleased to say that after a lot of work and negotiation with suppliers we finally feel like we have a working plan to get the turbine up and running very soon. Firstly the co-op will be making a bond issue of around £20,000 to members to raise the additional working capital we need to cover the over-run. At the same time, we are working intensively with our civils contractors and the turbine suppliers to get the turbine spinning reliably. One silver lining in the situation is that we are benefitting from some of the optimisation which has been carried out on a turbine of the same type installed just before ours.
The rain has come right on time as we enter what is hopefully the final week of installation. The famous stump that we found at the base of the weir has been removed finally and last Friday the slab which will sit below the inlet screen was cast. The screen is set to go in place towards the end of the week – then we can remove the temporary dam and the installation will be physically complete. Our turbine ought to see its first flows for commissioning purposes sometime next week – if that goes well we hope to harvest a little of this rain perhaps even before October is out.
They say 90% of a hydro project is in the civil engineering. These photos just in really show how much work has gone in. The first picture is from the period of floods when work on this area was just starting:
We’re still awaiting the turbine itself but assured that it is on its way very soon!
The turbine house is finished and the capture ring is in place – this is the interface between the turbine and its housing. The draft tube will be next – this is the outflow of the turbine – we have agreed a slight shape modification which will increase efficiency. After that the propellor itself and the generator will go in – this should take a couple more weeks and we will be ready to make power from the rain now falling!
Some great pictures from site showing the sluice gate in place and the precision concrete housings for the turbine – you can clearly see the hole in which it will sit. We are expecting the first parts of the turbine to go in shortly.
The project has nearly spent the 70% of its share capital required to apply for the SEED EIS forms and will be doing so soon – members in the habit of filling in tax forms early may wish to wait for these!
A story covering the delays with some good pictures of the installation in progress is here:
A lot of work has been going on at Tetstill – perhaps not spectacular but necessary work to prepare the wheel pit for the turbine enclosure. Some redesign of the enclosure itself has been necessary to make sure the generator and control gear are adequately protected from floods. All this has meant that we are slightly behind schedule – still on for April turbine installation however. The pictures show the underpinning and strengthening of both wheel pits. We think the stone facing looks excellent – we are creating the heritage of the future after all…