Hause Gill hydro power scheme
You might think that the wettest spot in England would be a good place to install a green energy hydro power scheme, and you’d be right!
We aim to produce 50% of our energy from renewables by 2020 and one of the ways we are working towards this target is to harness the energy that occurs naturally from the water that flows down our Lake District gills, becks and rivers.
Back in December 2015 Honister above Borrowdale hit the headlines as it was hit by 341mm of rainfall in 24 hours - a UK record! So it made sense to investigate the feasibility of installing a hydro just down the fell from Honister at Hause Gill.
Where do we start?
Before any physical work could begin, archaeology, ecology and tree surveys were carried out to be sure there were no reasons why the proposed site couldn’t be chosen. This means we have worked with many different groups such as planners, archaeologists, Environment Agency and farm tenants who all have an interest in the project.
It’s important that the system’s infrastructure lies sympathetically within the landscape, so it’s not a big eyesore in this a beautiful location. Having good access, like we have at Hause Gill, has been a key aspect in making this a minimally intrusive project.
We can't do this on our own
Finding the right company to install the scheme has also been of huge importance, as we take into consideration not just price quoted, but ways of working and best fit with our ethos. We are very happy to be working with Border Hydro for the installation at Hause Gill, a local company who, like us, believes in supporting the local community.
The first step of construction was the intake structure which goes in where the water will be abstracted from the gill. This structure consists of a series of stainless tanks and a screen on the top where the water will flow over.
No water will be abstracted during dry periods as we don’t want gill scrambling activities or the aesthetics of the gill to be affected and we certainly don’t want any ecological infrastructure to be lost. To help the aesthetics a holly tree is to be planted in front of the intake screen to reduce it's visibility from the road.
Large sections of pipe were delivered to site - a total length of 1km - and buried in a trench 1m deep, dug by the smallest possible machines for minimal impact on the ground.
The seat of power
Then the next job was to build the power house, to house the turbine and generator. The design we went for is that of a small traditional Lakeland barn, so when all the work is finished, you’ll drive past and think it's been there for hundreds of years
Local contractors were used again in constructing the power house; a builder to build the barn walls, a joiner to make the roof and a stone mason to cover the barn with traditional stone. Even the turbine (a Pelton) is from Gilkes of Kendal.
Getting switched on
The construction phase is over and there now follows a period of ‘snagging’ and evaluation over the next 2-3 years. However, it was with great excitement that the scheme was commissioned (switched on!) 11 August 2017 and generated almost 10,000 kWh in its first week - that’s 10,000 dishwasher cycles!
You can still admire the views
Our hope for the future is that once the project is complete and bedded in, we will be producing renewable, green energy from a scheme that you won’t even notice is there if you are scrambling up Hause Gill or walking in this beautiful landscape.