The Holy Trinity 

Congleton Hydro Controls

Congleton Hydro meter

Archie, you know all about, he even has his own world-wide fan club!!, The G99 Protection Relay was the focus of the August Newsletter—crucially important to allow us to connect to the external world i.e. The Grid! All good stuff but we need the cash!! and to get this we need a meter. More about this crucial element of the hydro trinity shortly—but first Ice Cream and in particular Italians!!

Last month’s little foray into the world of “99 Flakes” prompted a deluge of suggestions as to why the UK ice cream market was dominated by Italians.

The general consensus is that the mid-1800’s brought a large number of political exiles to the UK, especially following the European Revolutions of circa 1840’s where a series of political upheavals brought with them a short-lived period of unrest and revolutions (most notably of course the French Revolution of 1848). The majority were equipped with skills, many were artistic such as musicians, painters and artisans. Most settled in London, setting up immigrant communities, many of which still exist today. For example, the centre of the Italian community in Britain established in the 19th century is “Little Italy” situated in Clerkenwell. Many of the Italian immigrants were former Café proprietors and ice-cream makers. One of these immigrants was Carlo Gatti. Arriving in Britain in 1847 he is credited with being the first ice-cream manufacturer in Britain. As the years passed, the Italians began to spread all over the country and set up their own Italian Cafes and Ice-Cream Parlours (there was a time when every little town and community in Wales had one—for anyone interested there is a nice BBC story here.. ) Many of course have now disappeared, dispossessed and superseded by large multi-national chains.

Enough of Ice-creams and back to the Hydro Trinity. With Archie at full steam ahead, G99 Grid acceptance testing being completed, we are ready to go but we now need to collect the income for the energy generated. Key enabler for this is a kWh meter (kWh is a kilowatt-hour i.e., amount of energy generated or in the case of your home consumed (measured in watts over an hour e.g., if you have an electric fire rated at 1kW and leave it on for one hour, you will have consumed 1kWhrs and be billed accordingly by your energy supplier).

In the case of Congleton Hydro, we need to bill our Customer (Siemens) for the energy supplied and OFGEM for the monies they have agreed to pay us via the FiT (Feed-in Tariff) scheme. To do this we need to show proof of what we have supplied, and we do this via an OFGEM accredited meter reading. The meter shown in the photograph is integrated in the control cabinet and collects its “volts and amps “data from the main system controller (plc). (A little of the background to metering is attached via the download).


Siemens also have a meter at their end (just like all consumers) and we have a monthly payment agreement with them. Unfortunately collecting the monies under the FiTs scheme is not so simple. We have to go through a “third party” i.e., one of the main energy companies.

After trying a few and getting various rejections of our OFGEM pre-accreditation number. MPAN number etc we have finally (hopefully and fingers crossed) found an energy company that seems to be more flexible and tolerant of “non-standard” applications (The MPAN – Meter Point Administration Number is a 13-digit reference that uniquely identifies every electricity supply point in the country—you should find such a number on your own electricity meter). The application has now been duly completed and we currently wait for their acceptance. One would have thought we would be able to submit meter readings electronically but no, every quarter on a postcard please—in some respects the moving tons of earth and finally installing Archie and his accoutrements have been simple compared to all the approvals needed!

OFGEM appear to be progressing very well with our application for the full FiT accreditation. Our OFGEM assessor has now returned from annual leave and has begun to work through the details of our application. The fact that they are seeking clarifications etc (all smoothly dealt with) makes us optimistic that our case will be dealt with quite quickly. Our FiTs accrue from the date the application was submitted (August 19th) so we are now earning FiTs on every kWh we produce.

So, we have (more or less) all in place to start a full income-generating operation, we just need Rain!!, the River Dane, like most rivers during summer looks nice and tranquil, ducks and other water creatures enjoying these summery days. Unfortunately, this means Archie is just able to tick over. You will recall from previous newsletters that we have to maintain a cosmetic water head of 5mm over the Weir (this is the main setpoint for our control system). During this dry summer period, the Dane’s water level is such that Archie’s voracious appetite just can’t be satisfied and his diet is such that only a few kilowatts can be generated (Investors do not be alarmed, the water levels are in line with the profiles that underpin the business plan). A year ago (yes exactly a year ago on September 1st, 2020, we started site work) we had fingers crossed and prayed for fine weather and certainly not much rain), but now 12months later situation reversed and a lot of rain please!!!

This “dry period” is actually giving us an opportunity to put in place some additional safety measures. Despite fencing in place that prevents accidental access, we want to make sure that the Archimedes Screw is well isolated from any determined person who might want for whatever reason to stroke Archie’s tummy! As you can see from the photograph below, most of Archie is well protected by a strong mesh cover. Before we go into full unattended operation, we are going to extend this mesh to cover the whole screw. (Why, you might reasonably ask, did we not install a full mesh cover from scratch, well, what we have is what is supplied by Landustrie the screw manufacturer, and to be quite honest we did not think intruder incursions would be a problem—hopefully they won’t be, but we have decided to play safe). The mesh cover is being designed and installed by Wayman’s—a local Congleton company.

Congleton Hydro

Even though the Powerhouse is secure, we will be hosting visitors who will want to see the inner workings of Archie and his mates (gearbox, generator etc). All rotating machinery tends to “attract pointing fingers” so we have been installing mesh guards and a safety interlock system.

Gearbox Congleton Hydro
Gearbox Hydro

Maintenance access is determined by shutting the system down, after a few mins of no power, the mesh door interlock is disabled. “Single key” padlock is then unlocked, and the padlock is then used to lock the incomer switch on the control unit. Service engineer then keeps the key on his/her person.
On the subject of maintenance, we are now in the process of detailing a full maintenance schedule—what needs doing, how, with what, who by, when etc. We will “bore you” with this info in a future newsletter!

We have covered the history of the Havannah site in a previous newsletter (all newsletters can be accessed via our fantastic website www.congletonhydro.co.uk. As a quick refresh, the Weir was constructed in 1762 (how one may ask without machinery??) and used for power generation via various waterwheels for a variety of industries. In 1922, an electrical generator was installed, and Havannah Village inhabitants enjoyed electricity in their homes before downtown Congleton. The old industrial site is now populated by a number of nice houses but one row of the old “New Street “cottages remain. Blue Plaque (see below) affixed to one of these records some of this history.

Havannah Wall Plaque

One of our keen followers of the Hydro project and an avid reader of our newsletters contacted us to say that she was born and brought up in one of the original New Street Cottages. She has kindly put pen to paper to record some of her memories.

Her article “My childhood in Havannah Village” is attached and can be accessed below.

Nature Volunteers:

In the last newsletter, we described the broad scope of a rewilding plan for the site. Since then, Ruth Benson, of the Trees for Congleton, has been completing a site survey to produce a planting plan and shopping list of the required flora, see attached documents.

Hydro planting plan


From the couple of site pictures, you don’t need to be a genius to work out that transforming (rewilding) the site back into something nature might recognise needs doing now!

We would like a group of 10 to 12 volunteers who would be happy to spend time together doing the physical work necessary. In the short term this means coming to site in appropriate ‘gear’ with fork and shovel to dig over the bank facing the river to produce a reasonable seed bed that can be planted with wildflower perennials.
A volunteer skilled in operating a mini digger would be especially useful because in places the surface resembles concrete (!) and needs to be broken up into a workable surface.

After that there is plenty of work to reshape the site in detail to direct springs and to begin the tree planting. Lots to do!
Apply to Peter Aston at admin@congletonhydro.co.uk

Hope you have enjoyed reading this newsletter and found it informative. As always, we welcome feedback and any suggestions for future newsletter content. We received an excellent question from a reader of last month’s newsletter:

Has anyone worked out the manhours per kilowatt that has been involved so far?”  David, the answer to that is no, but one day we might finally retire to the pub and think about it!!!!

Hopefully in next month’s newsletter we can report that it has rained, and we are generating at full power!!

As always, please take care and stay safe.

Congleton Hydro Team
Dane Valley Community Energy Ltd (FCA Registration 7142)