WITH encouragement from Gillingham Town Council and a grant from the Sowing SEEDS Local Action Group, three redundant mill and weir sites have begun to produce renewable energy.
Stephen Burroughs said that, for the last 10 years, members of the Stour and Vale Hydro Group have been investigating ways to overcome the wastage of potential energy in our rivers. Traditional water power, once so common in Dorset, has been reinstated with this pilot demonstration project to use recent developments in turbine design.
Small scale installations at Benjafield Farm Weir, Milton on Stour; Peggs Mill, Iwerne Minster and Lordsmead Mill, Mere situated on tributaries of the Stour, will each produce 3 to 5kWh. It is anticipated that these will produce consistent outputs of green electricity in most river conditions.
Although each stream has similar flow characteristics, each site has different head levels and weir types. For this reason, three different designs of turbine and civil construction were required for each scheme. The dry winter of 2011-2012 was followed by exceptionally wet conditions for the rest of the year making groundwork very difficult. Benjafield and Peggs Mill started generating in late 2012 but work at Lordsmead was deferred until this year.
The efficiencies of these installations will be monitored over the next five years. As a collaborative demonstration project, outputs and case studies from each scheme will be made available to those involved in further research and development and to those wishing to install small scale hydropower in the area.
Much of the turbine design and all of the civil engineering has been carried out by local specialist contractors and engineers which will support the future development at other mills. The whole experience will also be shared on a wider basis to show how micro hydro can reinstate neglected water courses and historic mills in the Blackmore Vale and elsewhere to produce green electricity.