The Bury Hydro Project

The riverbank alongside the weir on the river Irwell adjacent to the Chamberhall business park in Bury is owned by Bury Council. In August 2013, Bury Council published a tender opportunity offering the rights to develop a hydro scheme on this site. This tender was won by a partnership between Bee Sustainable, a sustainability campaign group in Bury, and Sharenergy, a social enterprise that specialises in helping community groups to establish community owned renewable energy schemes.

Bee Sustainable is the Society developing and operating the hydro scheme at the Chamberhall Business Park which will trade as Bury Community Hydro.

Sharenergy is a Shrewsbury-based co-operative which helps community groups to establish community owned renewable energy co-ops. Sharenergy is a spin-off from Energy4All, a not-for-profit company which owes its origin to Baywind community windfarm in Cumbria.

The successful bid made to Bury Council was submitted as a partnership between Bee Sustainable and Sharenergy. It is the intention that once the project is up and running, that Sharenergy will sign over its interest in the project to Bee Sustainable who will then be wholly responsible for the operation of the hydro scheme.

Project Timeline

This is an indicative timeline showing planned progress along a realistic path – but can and will change as required.

March – June 2015 Work on finalising Planning and permitting issues using UCEF funding
March 2015 Pioneer share issue complete
April 2015 – July 2016 Planning and permitting issues finalised and remaining impact studies commissioned
August 2016 – August 2017 Planning application and EA licencing process
September 2017 Agreement to Lease and Lease signed
by Spring 2018 Planning approval granted and permits obtainedMain share offer completed

Detailed design work complete

Ofgem pre-accreditation obtained

Construction contracts issued

Summer 2018 Construction of Scheme
Spring 2019 Scheme fully operational

The Site

Chamberhall Business Park is on the north-west edge of Bury town centre, adjacent to the A58. It was an early industrial site, developed by the Peel family and subsequently reclaimed and landscaped by Bury Council in the 1970s. For its new life as a business park, new road and cycle links have recently been constructed and the site now accommodates a new police station, fire station and testing laboratory. There is planning permission for offices and other plots are still available for development.

On the River Irwell approximately 500 metres north of the A58 is a substantial 19th Century weir which formally fed water to a textile printing works.

Feasibility of the Hydro Installation

A feasibility study for a small hydro electricity generating plant at this location was commissioned by Bury Council in 2011. The consultant, Spaans Babcock proposed the site as suitable for a single 75kw Archimedes screw turbine involving the construction of a new concrete chute immediately downstream of the weir.

Over the past 10 years, many Archimedes Screw schemes have been commissioned in the UK. The majority of these are private schemes, but there are community owned Archimedes Screw turbines installed at New Mills in Derbyshire, at Settle in Yorkshire and elsewhere – with many other schemes under development. Many schemes welcome visitors.

Overview of Archimedes Screw Turbine
Overview of Archimedes Screw Turbine

The report from Spaans Babcock was commissioned in 2011 and there have been significant changes that affect hydro viability since then. The first action of BCH has therefore been to commission a new report to update the findings of the report by Spaans Babcock. In order to at the same time provide an independent assessment of the methodology, the update was commissioned from a contractor that was not involved in the first report. Quotes were requested and Mann Power were selected for this work. The report was delivered in Autumn 2014.

There were two significant areas of concern identified in the Spaans Babcock report that it was felt needed further investigation. These were a) whether a fish pass would be required at the site, and b) what was the impact of the gauging station that is located just above the site.  Mann Power were also asked to refresh the estimates of energy yield from the site, and the estimated cost of construction.

The net effect of the updates from Mann Power is that the power yield will be greater than anticipated.

Since the original feasibility work, the scheme has faced two major new challenges:-

  • The climate change related floods in December 2015 caused damage to the weir
  • The severe cut in the Feed In Tariff in January 2016

However, there are also a number of new developments which could mitigate these challenges, which are currently making the scheme non-viable. Positive developments are:-

  • In 2016, the group won an innovation grant from Greater Manchester Combined Authority Low Carbon Hub, to investigate the potential for innovative electricity distribution and sales via a ‘virtual private wire network’, working closely with Electricity North West
  • The group are working with nationally recognised Carbon Co-op in Manchester to bid for GM Sustainable Urban Development Fund money to further explore innovative supply options which will maximise revenue income to the scheme

The group hopes that from this innovation work, the financial challenges to the scheme from the weir damage and FIT drop can be overcome, and the partnerships with Electricity North West and Carbon Co-op have given the group extra capacity to explore these alternatives. Watch this space!