It has been some months since the last Newsletter (Read it here if you would like to refresh your memory). We could have produced one during the summer but it would have been a blank sheet of paper, as the only news was no rain, hence no generation. Think the Met Office reckoned this summer was one of the driest on record, so our prediction that once the school holidays started it would be rain, rain and rain was totally wrong. We’ve been in good company—Norway gets a substantial amount of its Power from Hydro, and they also suffered, having to import some power from the UK via the NSL (North Sea link) interconnector. For those that are interested, you can get a good overview of the UK power generation segments, including the import/export via the various interconnectors by looking at https://gridwatch.co.uk/

This was the snapshot today (Sunday 4/12/2022 at 14:40.) Plenty of wind, hardly any solar and France importing some of their requirement from the UK. Quite interesting to check now and again, as the generation landscape is never uniform. 

GB Fuel types

Anyway, enough of other forms of generation, much more interesting is the milestone below.

hydro generation

This was achieved during the last week of November, as of today (Dec 4th) plenty of water in the Dane has already seen the figure rise to over 202MWhr.

Our original target, based on historical rainfall & River Dane water volumes, was to achieve something like 250MWhr during the first year of generation. We are a bit short of that but hopefully, a decent winter and spring will see us back on track. However, for those of you (investors) who are interested in £notes rather than KWhrs, the recent doom and gloom of the energy price rises affecting all of us has of course been a benefit to Congleton Hydro. We have received decent price increases from our Customer and via the FIT payment. We have just submitted our November invoices. This was for 32,246kWhr. This is the highest monthly generation we have achieved. If we include the FIT payment for the month (which is paid twice per year), the total income in the month would be our largest to date. For reference, generation in Nov 21 was 20,375KWh—much lower than this year. The highest monthly figure achieved before this was January 2022, when 27,465kWh was generated but at a lower price.

For investors, first Shareholder payments are forecasted to be paid in April 2023 (4% IRR), in line with the Share Prospectus. (approx. £52 per £1000 invested).

Also, in line with the Share Prospectus, £4K has been donated to Community projects.

Of course, no rain has a silver lining—we don’t get wet whilst working on site (there is always something to do!!). One of the planning conditions was that we install several Bat boxes around the site. Seven of these were made and placed in S/SE facing places, such as the powerhouse and suitable trees. For those interested in making your own, ours are based on the RSB design.

Bat boxes fitted at the hydro
Bats fitted

We (rucks of volunteers) have also been busy constructing a good quality path between the powerhouse and the water intake, giving much easier and safer access for the “de-trashing teams.

Classic design that you will find in most National Trust sites, these were made using post & rail construction and then infilled with rubble subbase and over 10tons of MOT (MOT simply stands for Ministry of Transport –being initially approved for the construction of public highways and pavements).

Rewilding project

First and second stage path construction—note the pink barrow!!

We have also spent some time reviewing the operating efficiency at various flow rates using the comprehensive data collection afforded by Mindsphere.
Conclusion reached that overfilling of the forebay tank was reducing efficiency at low speeds
Control system modified to modulate sluice gate height to regulate forebay tank water level. This has given an approx.50% increase in generation achievement at low flow rates
Also, during the spring and summer months, the re-wilding team of volunteers have carried on with their never-ending work of trying to reduce the amount of Himalayan Balsam that invades every nook and cranny. Almost all the tree and shrub planting done last winter has survived, and the ground flora, which was initially mainly rye grass with bare ground in between, is rapidly becoming denser and more varied. Think a lot of the growth has occurred in the late summer and early autumn – or at least it has become more visible.  Even though the grass/wildflower seeds were sown very late in the year, up to late December 2021, there has been no need for re-seeding.  Next year we would expect many more species to make an appearance.

The collage below shows a mix of Holly Autumn, Oak, Bristley Ox-tongue rosette, Alder seedlings, Alder-replanted last year from Lindow Common and a mix of Common Sallow, oak, alder. Common rush, pendulous sedge, willow and herb grasses

Planting hydro

During the summer months, we hosted quite a few tours of the site and equipment. Some of these tours were from school and college groups, some arranged via website bookings following publicity at the very successful Congleton Green Fayre. We are slowly improving our act regarding visits; several great volunteer tour guides have joined us and have started their knowledge acquisition training. By the time spring arrives, we will be well placed to host a greater frequency of tours and our Tour Guide manager –yes, we now have one!!, is going to ensure we finally have a working booking system via the website—honestly!

As we reported in the Spring Newsletter the Team is moving forward with an ambitious new project to develop additional community renewable energy sources.  However, this time we’re going for both solar and hydro schemes. So, we will hopefully be generating all year round. As a reminder the development work is being funded by a £100K grant from the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF). Fantastic strides have already been made in moving this work forward under the administration of a newly formed independent CBS (Dane Valley Community Energy – Congleton Park (DVCE-CP) Ltd.

The solar scheme will work like this; DVCE-CP will supply and install our solar panels on “customers” roof spaces with no financial investment required by said customer. 30kW is the minimum viable size of any individual scheme so only business customers with a significant electricity demand can be considered. The electricity generated by the panels will be supplied from the DVCE -CP panels to the customer facility at a tariff significantly below that being charged by their electric utility provider. Any excess power from the solar panels, which the customer cannot consume, will be fed to the grid and the revenue returned to DVCE-CP. We have already attracted significant interest from local businesses as well as a major school trust and are currently moving forward with feasibility studies. In all, we would like to install about 500kW of roof based solar PV, generating about 400MWh of electricity annually.

Progress has also been made with the proposed 50kW hydro project located on the river Dane in Congleton Park. This scheme should produce about 200MWh annually. A briefing paper has been presented by DVCE-CP to the Cheshire East Council who owns the land on which the scheme is to be located. The paper addresses various technical, environmental and viability-related issues. The Environmental Agency has been consulted and a design for augmenting the existing gauge station at the weir in order to measure the flow diverted through the turbine is being considered. Various environmental studies including geomorphology, ecological and noise studies have been completed in preparation for making Planning and Abstraction License applications. Finally, we have retained consultants to perform ground investigations and an outline civil design to de-risk the business plan in preparation for a share offer.

Congleton Park Weir
The Park Weir—approx.3m high but a shallower wall compared to Havannah.

While we have working schedules for both the solar and hydro projects, these are somewhat tentative at present due to potential delays with regulatory approvals, securing lease agreements and equipment supply. Hopefully, we will be in a better position to announce the proposed share offer and first-generation dates in our next newsletter.

In all of these endeavours, DVCE-CP is collaborating with Nantwich Mill Community Energy (www.nmce.co.uk) which also received an RCEF grant to develop renewable energy projects in Nantwich. Congratulations to NMCE on holding a very successful launch of their Community Benefit Society last week.

Hope you have found this update to be of interest. As always, we welcome feedback and suggestions for improvement/inclusion.

We wish you A Very Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year

A Special BIG THANK YOU to all our Volunteers, who with their unstinting support, continue to ensure the ongoing success of Congleton Hydro.

As usual, we welcome your feedback and suggestions for improvement in all we do. Please contact us via info@congletonhydro.co.uk

With Best Wishes from your Congleton Hydro Team.

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