Harnessing the river Ribble's power in Settle
This article by Andrew Bibby, in a slightly different form, was first published in Choice magazine, 2010
In the beautiful setting of Settle in the Yorkshire Dales national park, local people have come together to harness the power of the river Ribble. A community-based hydro generation scheme, using innovative Archimedean screw technology, has recently started feeding electricity into the national grid.
The hydro turbine is based alongside a weir just north of the town, once used to create power for a local cotton mill. According to Ann Harding, one of the volunteer directors of Settle Hydro, the river's power should be able to produce 180,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year.
The scheme cost about £415,000, partly funded by grants and partly by a £125,000 bank loan. But in another innovative twist, Settle Hydro also raised £135,000 from individuals in an alternative share issue. Over 150 people invested between £250 and £20,000 in shares in the venture.
The project has taken large amounts of volunteer time and effort, and also involved complicated negotiations with local anglers and with the Environment Agency. But according to Ann Harding, there has been real satisfaction to be had, too, in bringing back water power to her town. “We're regenerating the local economy and promoting sustainability,” she says.
Settle is following the example of another successful community-based hydro generation scheme, in the town of New Mills south of Manchester .
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