Time goes quickly, our last newsletter was a “Spring Special” edition, celebrating the achievement of a special Milestone – 250MWhr generated since inception. Well perhaps we ought to label this as a Super Special Edition as look what has now been achieved, all your prayers to Zeus – The God of Rain, have been answered.
The graphs below show power production figures for end of October 2023 with further additional graphs showing the rolling power production over the previous 12-month period. As you can see, thanks to a wet October, for the first time, we just about met our forecast target annual power production for the period October end 22 to October end 23.
Last year we were heads in hands crying—who has stolen all the rain!!!. Just shows, a bit like the Stock Market, if you are going to Invest, do it for the longer term. Just cannot base performance on one year alone.
Of course, there are positives and negatives, this year we had planned some downtime maintenance during the “dry summer”, which of course did not really materialise and as you’ll see a bit later, lots of water and high ambient temperatures were not good companions!!
Cumulative Power Generated since October 2021
Cumulative Power Generated during the last year of generation (We first started Oct 2021, so our Generation year is now always Oct to Sept, or thereabouts!!)
Month by Month Generation, as measured by our Export Power Meter ( Red bar reflects the design forecast based on average rainfall over the past 20 years or so).
The cumulative average, red curve is the design forecast based on the last 20 years of average rainfall.
The Power output achieved is of course dominated by the rainfall but no matter how much rain, if the system is not available it is entirely academic. So, a big THANKYOU to all our Volunteers, who have helped achieve a great system availability/uptime by ensuring the planned and unplanned downtimes are well limited. Our planned downtimes have been as dictated by our maintenance schedules e.g. Top Bearing grease top up—“20 squirts per month” (a squirt being a well-recognised engineering unit of measurement!!) and the annual gearbox oil change—it would have helped if we had fitted a drain valve before we installed the gearbox!!!, it now has one, so oil change next year will be 30mins instead of 3hours!! Our planned “Trash cleaning” through the summer has quite often not been needed, as thankfully spring and summer are the seasons of not many storms and hence not much leaves and debris, always exceptions of course, and our “Trash Cleaning” Volunteers continue to excel with their dedication and fortitude. We’ve had some unplanned downtimes – turned the system off for the best part of a day to allow our Customer, Siemens, to do some work at their end. Also, really annoying, during some of the peak water times during Summer we also had high ambient temperatures—a combination not planned for in our design. So, high water levels giving rise to max long-term speed of Archie, net result a high gearbox temperature. Nothing out of the ordinary but this coincided with high Ambient temperatures >26deg C. Inside the powerhouse, this high ambient temp, coupled with the radiated heat from the gearbox, caused the Control System Cubicle temperature to rise above 50deg C—our alarm trip level. Some short-term expediencies such as removing the filters, leaving the doors open etc, helped bring the operating temperature down to working levels. Assuming these climate factors will be repeated in future years, we need to find an improved air movement/heat extraction solution.
System downtime for all the above amounted to a total of about two days lost generation, add in a day lost due to the impact of Storm Ciaran (see below) gives a system availability of about 99%. Many Industrial organisations would be proud to achieve such a level of availability.
During April, as planned, we made our first capital and interest payments to the people who have enabled all this to happen—our Investors. Some of the Investors said thank you very much– but we Invested because we support the whole ethos of such Community-based renewable energy. We say a BIG THANK YOU to these Investors, who have asked that their monies be used to increase the value of the Community Fund.
Also in April, (via the agreement of the members at the AGM) a payment of £5K was made into the Community Fund. This brings the value of funds donated to Community projects to £9K—again in line with what was promised in the original Share Offer. This year, a separate Community Fund Committee was set up to handle the Community Scheme (policies, process, marketing, application and adjudication process etc). Looking to the future, when the next Community Energy Scheme (based on Solar –see below) starts to also generate Community Funds, we have called it CHASCT (Congleton Hydro and Solar Community Trust). Further information on the scheme can be found on our website Community Trust Fund – Congleton Hydro .This year, from quite a few applications, four awards have been made (small amount carried over to next year):
- Daven Primary School – £1000—They currently have an established woodland area that presents great learning opportunities in respect of the environment, science (habitat of bugs and so on) analysis etc. Provides great potential for bat/bird boxes, art/drawing skills, bug hotels etc.
- Marfields Primary School – £600—Teaching and learning resources to give pupils a better understanding of Climate Change, Renewable Energy, Impact on the Environment etc
- Havannah Primary School – £1,260—Provision of new microscopes for the school
- The Bromley Bloomers – £1000 –To contribute towards trees, plants etc for the new community garden. Core focus to help people to try and become more sustainable in their own right.
As always in everything we do, we can improve. So having reviewed the process, we will look in future years, to improve the marketing and awareness of the Community Scheme, together with a swifter and smoother timescale from launch to award.
(Photo used with kind permission of parents and Havannah School)
The recent Storm Ciaran gave Congleton a glancing blow, the River Dane (a spate river) rose by over 1.6M overnight. Quickly dropped in level again but brought us a present with quite a lot of debris filling the water intake. Congleton Hydro is blessed with a great team of Volunteers, who rapidly cleared the system.
Progress (albeit slow) is being made with our ambitions to bring into operation a second Community Hydro utilizing the Weir adjacent to Congleton Park. Negotiations with Cheshire East on land ownership and possible lease of land are ongoing, You may recall, from an earlier Newsletter that there are a number of Covenants (held/granted by Sir Walter Shakerley, (Baronet) in 1925. that apply to the usage of Congleton Park and its environs. Basically, these restrict the Park (which is Heritage listed) to usage for public walks and pleasure grounds, although subsequent discharges of the covenants have allowed the building of the Daneside Theatre etc. After some detailed research, we have managed to be in contact with the current Baronet, Sir Nicholas Shakerley. He is quite enthusiastic about our plans and seems to be prepared to enable a Covenant modification to permit a Community Energy Scheme. All very complicated, and perhaps even more complicated to unravel—just as well we are all Engineers, we don’t baulk at such challenges to be overcome!!
In the meantime, we have submitted the scheme to Cheshire East for Planning Approval. If you are interested, the planning application can be viewed via: https://planning.cheshireeast.gov.uk/applicationdetails.aspx?pr=23/3697C&query=9a1ad92c-0cd3-4b29-8371-7cb87b2fc454
Some of the Cheshire East Councillors are passionate about Renewable/Green Energy/Community and one has decided to “Call In” the planning approval. This means that the applications will be reviewed, discussed and decided on by the Committee, rather than being left to the Planning Officers’ decision. The Timescale of this process will not be known until the earliest end of this month (November). This of course is just the first stage of the process to bring “The Park Hydro” into reality—the challenges of Environment Agency Approval and then refining “the design and construction” into a workable financial business plan are yet to come.
You will be aware (from earlier newsletters and subsequent emails!!-) that we launched another Renewable Energy scheme, a few months ago. This is the scheme based on turning Solar Energy into funds for Community Projects and valuable monies for Schools. The Share Offer looks to raise approx. £530K. This is the capital required to install solar panels and associated equipment onto the roofs of nine schools in the area as well as one sports facility. Direct and anecdotal feedback seems to indicate that our scheme is being perceived as Solar panels for domestic properties. So, just to clarify:
The Community Energy Scheme, is, like that of Congleton Hydro, predicated on raising monies for Community Projects. It is targeted in the main at Schools and Academies. The funds raised from Investors like yourselves are used to purchase, install and commission into operation (by two fully MCS-approved installation companies) appropriately sized solar systems onto the roofs of nine schools (for this particular share offer).
The energy generated is primarily utilised by the Customers, who will pay DVCE-CP a tariff 25% lower than they would otherwise be charged by their electric utility. The excess electricity generated by the solar panels is “sold into the grid”. Surplus DVCE-CP earnings from the sale of electricity will, after the scheduled return of capital and interest to Investors, go into the CHASCT fund (see above) for funding community projects. This is really a “win-win” project, monies raised for Environmentally based Community Projects and valuable monies raised for schools to invest in the education of our Future Green Champions. To date, approx. £270K has been invested by community members like yourselves. We have received a confirmation from “the Power to Change, Share Booster Fund” (administered by CO-OP UK) that they will invest £60K (they also invested in Congleton Hydro). We expect another “philanthropic institutional organisation” to also provide a sizeable grant, together with a short-term loan. The cumulative funds will then exceed the £400K minimum that we set as the amount to start the scheme. So, after a slow and maybe “miss-messaged” start we are getting there. We now need your help to get to the full £530K.
The scheme is all within the Caring Hands of the Great Team that brought Congleton Hydro into the world. A team that you can trust to bring it to fruition and have a track record of honouring their promises. The share offer is open until the end of the year (December 31st) and can be accessed via :
An Investment would make a great Christmas Present for yourselves, your family and loved ones. — Go on Treat Yourselves and by doing so, help others.
The “How much Energy can you generate from a bucket of water” education project is now transitioning into reality from a scatty-brained idea, into Heath Robinson lash ups and now into something that works, has been initially tested and can be replicated.
3D Printed Archimedean Screw under test
After much hard work a scale replica of “Archie” has been designed and produced by 3D printing (approx. £15 materials and 16 hours of print time). The bucket of water has now become a 2-litre former Coke bottle. “Baby Archie” powers a small 3-phase generator with a load consisting of an LED (Light emitting diode). The challenge is “how long can the LED be illuminated for a flow of 2L of water. Trial tested and improved by a team of Siemens apprentices, it now goes on to some serious testing by KS3 Teams at the Fallibroome Academy, Macclesfield.
Initially, they will be supplied the components including the Screw, but the next stage is to just supply the outline design for the schools to develop their own source code to print on their own machines. No doubt, before the envisaged inter-school competitions, the LED will be replaced by some form of “energy display”. Well done to all involved in conceiving the original idea and bringing it into reality.
As part of the process of being evaluated for Business Rates (the good news is that we are exempt!!), we had to gain “a registered postcode address”. We even put up a very nice post box at the entrance. Within weeks we received some post—you just can’t escape—The TV licensing mob!!
Halloween, full of Ghouls and especially fairies has just passed Avid readers of past Newsletters will no doubt recall the stories of “the Fairy Glen”, before it was transformed into the access track and then returned to nature via our re-wilding. Well, it seems that we did not scare off all the fairies, these images captured on our powerhouse cctv camera.
The Fairy Vigil & The Fairy Dance Routine!
For those of you who either believe or don’t believe in Ghosts, Fairies and the like, this is an interesting read: The science behind seeing ghosts – BBC Three
The next newsletter will be next spring/early summer, although of course, we will produce the odd extra for any special event/news. The next newsletter(s) will probably be in the plural i.e. a Hydro Newsletter and a Solar Newsletter.
Hope you have found this Newsletter interesting and informative. Feedback, especially ideas for improvement are always welcome via: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It just remains to wish that you all have a Great Christmas and that 2024 brings happiness, good health and of course a reasonable amount of Rain and Sun to keep our Renewable Energy Scheme in good shape.
And a final wish—please invest in The Renewable Energy Solar Scheme, it will make you feel great in the new year, by knowing that your investment will not only earn you money but will support our Communities working to help sustain the environment and provide a visible resource for Schools to help develop and fund our next Generation of Green Champions
Congleton Hydro & Solar Team
Dane Valley Community Energy Ltd (FCA Registration 7142)
Dane Valley Community Energy – CP Ltd (FCA Registration 8859)