Mid-Winter Special Edition Newsletter

Just after eighteen months of operating, we, thanks to the sterling work of ZEUS, have had rucks of rain and reached the Celebratory Milestone of 25OMWhrs.

(As the Greek god of the skies, Zeus is responsible for lightning, thunder, clouds and rain. Most stories of Greek mythology describe Zeus as using his thunderbolt, but one myth in particular, tells us how Zeus gave mortals rain — thank you, Zeus, please keep up your good work!!


Energy generated at Congleton Hydro

January 2023

Although a little bit behind our original schedule, during what has been reported to be one of the driest summers on record, this really is a great milestone to reach. This is especially so, given that probably we spent several months of “straight generation” before we better understood the fluid dynamics and issues such as turbulent and laminar flow and evolved the control system to “modulate” the sluice gate to change the incoming volume dependent on the forebay tank level. As reported in a previous issue of the newsletter, this has led to a higher level of generation at low flow levels.

The “screen shot” reproduced below shows the cumulative power generated (MWhrs) during the past 12months (bottom scale is US format ie month /day as opposed to our standard of day/month—apols, could not work out how to change it!!) Clear to see that during late spring and through the whole of summer the level of the River Dane was not conducive (a bit of an understatement!!!) to wake Archie from a deep slumber! Finally, during the first weeks of Autumn, ZEUS gave the command and the rains started to arrive.

Whilst, the last week of January has not seen so much rain, the snow, especially at the source of the Dane has continued to enable good quality generation.

Power generation

Of course, life is not that Simple—plenty of water brings plenty of “trash”—leaves, twigs, branches and whole trees (but thankfully no dead sheep!!). Searched high and low but have not found a God of Trash removal! Thankfully, Congleton Hydro is blessed with many, many Volunteers, who turn out in all weathers to help keep the system and whole site running and visitor friendly. At this time of the year, the “Trash Volunteers” are particularly active. Depending on river conditions, working in pairs they aim to clear the trash from the system intake every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, although occasionally every day is necessary.

The impact of Trash and the remedial work of the Volunteers can be seen in the images below.

In the last newsletter, we outlined the proposed Congleton Park Community Hydro Scheme and the Community Solar Scheme.

The Solar is progressing quite well with a number of potential organisations showing serious interest and we have received our first letter of intent –Well done the Solar Team. A number of MCS-approved potential installation partners have been identified and a couple of preferred partners will be chosen shortly. Metering arrangements have been derived and discussions held with the likes of EDF and Octopus to discuss PPA (Power Purchase Agreements) options. We had a very productive meeting with GMCR (Greater Manchester Community Renewables ) who have been operating an almost identical scheme for the past couple of years. Their practical experience gives us confidence that we are on the right track. Because of discussions on the  Park Hydro scheme being drawn out and protracted (see below) it is anticipated that we will launch separate Community Share Offers for the Solar and Hydro Schemes. Once we have converted interest into Letters of Intent, we will, in conjunction with Share Energy get the share offer prospectus underway. Timescale availability of Solar Panels is currently an issue but is (like car deliveries!!) expected to improve during the coming months.

With regard to the proposed Archimedean-based Community Hydro Scheme in Congleton Park, many of the necessary activities are progressing well. We have a potential Customer for the generated power lined up, many of the necessary studies and initial surveys—geotechnical, system design, Arboricultural, cable route etc have been completed. The RCEF (DEFRA/BEIS) team (who awarded the grant) are very supportive and helpful. Fantastic, we have Central Government, private industry, business and commerce supporting and working together to try and bring about a renewable energy scheme, that albeit small in its power output is the epitome of a green project to help with mitigating the perceived impacts of Climate Change.

However, we are struggling to find a timely solution to a number of “potential hurdles” identified by the local authority—Cheshire East. Despite a number of excellent “on-site “ meetings with several Cheshire East Officers we have at least two issues that seem to be stuck in the mire of departmental interfaces and decision-making. Congleton Park is actually owned by Cheshire East council, initially, it was believed that they would grant us a lease of the land, river rights and access. Unfortunately, this does not now seem to be the case and Cheshire East have said they need to follow “public procurement procedures” and submit the land to open tender. The process and timescale for this process are unknown. Another issue is that a very small part of the land, that may or not be needed for the hydro is unregistered and is not in Cheshire East Ownership. Before issuing a request for tender, CEC say they must have clarity on the status and availability of this land. For us to provide such clarity on unregistered land ownership will take significant effort, time and resources as well as significant delay. Interestingly, the local authority (including the forerunners of Cheshire East) have erected pathway lighting etc and maintained the footpath on this land for many, many years!!. To try and find a way through these “showstopper” stalemates, we have suggested that maybe we could be offered an “Option to Lease”—to be executed by CEC upon satisfactory completion of the schemes development phase etc. It is crucial that this is resolved in the very near future as BEIS imposes a deadline for completion of RCEF projects development work by March 14th—it is hoped that this can be extended by a few months.

It is so frustrating to the team (all Volunteers!!) that Cheshire East Council leadership (operational and political) are not proactively enabling a solution to these and some other issues. The Congleton Park Hydro will provide a shining and highly visible illustration of Renewable Energy, open for all to see and a fantastic educational resource for the future (and of course present generations). It could become the Jewel in the Crown of Cheshire East’s commitment to Renewable Energy. Back to our Celebratory 250MWhr from Havannah Hydro.

You may be aware of the Energy Saving Scheme promulgated by National Grid.

Officially called the Demand Flexibility Service, it involves energy suppliers paying customers a small bonus if they use less electricity than usual, at a particular time.

For example, people could save energy by opting to use the microwave instead of the oven, or not using the washing machine until later.

Last Monday and Tuesday, the scheme ran from about 17:00 and 18:00 GMT.
The energy supplier said more than 400,000 customers took part by reducing their electricity use between 4.30pm and 6pm.

National Grid’s Demand Flexibility Scheme kicked in for the first time on Monday amid cold temperatures, meaning more energy was being used while less energy was being generated by wind power.

There was also uncertainty over how much power Britain could import through undersea cables from Europe.

Coal-fired power stations in North Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire were put on standby in case supplies ran low, but were later stood down. It had been feared that the mixture of weather conditions, demand and generation issues could lead to blackouts.

Octopus, British Gas, EDf, E.ON and others are all taking part in the scheme. It is only available to households with smart meters.

The average customer was paid £2.50 in points for reducing their usage by an average of 60%. The top 5% were paid £15 in points. The Octopus deal can see the points turned into cash, “prizes” or donated to a fund for customers in need.

More energy was saved on Tuesday, when the payment was larger, than on Monday, the firm revealed. Less than £1m was paid out on Monday.

Energy firms had advised that customers could delay cooking their evening meal, or putting loads of washing on – as cookers and washing machines can use lots of electricity.

The total amount of energy saved was about 250MWh (megawatt hours) nationwide, the same as the city of Liverpool going off grid for an hour, PA Media said.

So, there you have it, Congleton Hydro’s Archie kept the power on in Liverpool for an hour—not bad going for a bunch of Volunteers in Congleton and to all you Investors that made it possible.

If we can only get the Park Hydro up and running, Power from Cheshire East could be “lighting up the world”.

Hope you have enjoyed reading this special edition. As always we welcome feedback and suggestions for improvement via info@congletonhydro.co.uk

Prayers to Zeus would be most welcome!!!
With best wishes from the Congleton Hydro and Solar Team.