Saturday, 17 November 2018

Hydroelectric plant could power 300 homes for year

A £1.5 MILLION hydroelectric power plant could be built at Goring weir next year.

A £1.5 MILLION hydroelectric power plant could be built at Goring weir next year.

Goring and Streatley Community Energy has applied for planning permission for three Archimedes screws by the western bank of Goring lock island, about 500m upstream from the village bridge.

Each would be about 12ft wide and connected to a generator and could produce 850 megawatt-hours of electricity a year. This is about £100,000 worth, enough to power almost 300 homes.

The company says it would also prevent the release of 400 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, the amount produced by driving 1.2million miles in a normal car.

The screws were chosen because they turn quite slowly and have rubber-coated edges so would not harm wildlife. The plant would have separate channels for fish and eels to bypass it.

The electricity produced would run along a cable beneath the river bed towards Streatley, which would continue underground before plugging into the National Grid at a sub- station.

Although some carbon dioxide would be generated during construction of the plant, the company says it would make up for this within two years and the plant should last for at least 60 years.

Construction would take several months but there would be no disruption to river traffic.

The application says the plant’s location “minimises visual intrusion, taking all viewpoints into account” and was agreed by the Environment Agency.

The concrete structure around the screws would be painted grey to blend in with the existing weir. The adjacent single-storey plant room would be clad in brick. The company says there would be no “significant” increase in the flood risk and a 3m wide floodgate would be built to mitigate the small increase in river levels that could arise during flooding.

If planning permission is granted, residents will be asked to invest in the scheme.

The power the plant creates will be sold to the National Grid under the Government’s feed-in tariff scheme and a share of proceeds will go towards other green projects locally.

The company is a “community benefit scheme” that operates like a co-operative, with every member getting a vote on big decisions. This way, it claims, the plant is guaranteed to remain in community ownership.

The firm is an offshoot of the Goring and Streatley Sustainability Group, which former parish councillor David Holt founded in 2006.

The group first submitted a planning application in 2012 but the Environment Agency, which owns the site, objected as the environmental study was not detailed enough.

The application was withdrawn for further research and the agency now supports it in principle.

Lisa Ashford, the group’s chairwoman, said: “This is a very exciting time. It’s a major milestone for us to be at the planning stage again.

“We’ve invited a number of companies to bid to build it and once we’ve heard back we will decide whether we’re happy with the financial model.

“As long as that’s okay, we will start to nail down the commercial terms for share offers with a view to ideally building next year.

“This has been going for a long time so residents understand what we’re doing and are largely supportive. They often ask why it has taken so long but it’s a difficult and complicated  process.”

A similar scheme was run during the early 20th century by the Goring Electric Light and Power Company, which had a generator at Goring mill.

Goring Parish Council is yet to comment on the proposal. South Oxfordshire District Council will make the final decision by November 17.

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