Well it has certainly been a busy year for the Bristol Community Hydro Scheme…
Here’s a recap of our recent progress:
What is Bristol Community Hydro?
Bristol Community Hydro is our proposed twin-screw hydropower scheme at Netham Weir. Once up and running, it will generate enough renewable electricity to power more than 250 homes, with a lifetime of at least 40 years.
It will generate around 900,000 kWh of electricity every year – enough to drive an electric car between Bristol and Bath more than 200,000 times!*
This is being made possible with funds raised through our latest share offer, which is now live. Anyone can invest from as little as £100 to help support Bristol Energy Cooperative and earn a projected 3.5% return on investment.
*[0.2 kWh/km; 21km journey]
At Netham, more than 20 m3/s of water passes over the weir on average (that’s 20 tonnes per second), falling up to 2.5 metres. This is a huge untapped energy resource in the centre of Bristol, and a unique opportunity for hydropower of this scale in the city.
The site is at the edge of an industrial estate and the project has a huge amount of support from the local community, as we’ve seen at the public consultation event and through the comments on the planning application & Crowdfunder appeal.
The hydro scheme will be constructed in the riverbank and will be mostly hidden below ground, with all car parking reinstated.
Why is it so important?
Bristol as a city has declared a climate emergency and pledged to reach ‘net zero’ by 2030, just nine years away. This is a huge task, so we need to ensure we are making full use of the city’s resources to reduce our carbon footprint.
We have a choice to either make use of up to 300 kW of renewable power available at Netham Weir or allow it to go to waste (it currently ends up as turbulence, noise and heat). Clearly, we should use it if we can. And why delay? Our supporters and investors, which make up Bristol Energy Cooperative, have shown that they want to see this project up and running as soon as possible. We see this as just one step on a bigger journey to decarbonise the city.
Why Bristol Energy Cooperative?
As a small, not-for-profit organisation, we are able to develop projects quickly, even if they have a long payback period. We now have a great opportunity to develop this site, while ERDF grant funding is available, and we are keen to begin generating clean electricity as soon as possible. A hydro scheme at this site is never going to be a huge money-spinner, but by taking a long-term view, we are able to deliver a healthy return on investment, as well as raise funds for our community benefit schemes.
What’s the latest?
Back in March 2019 we pulled out all the stops to gain our planning permission and Environment Agency consents in time to accredit for the Feed-in Tariff. Unfortunately, the FiT scheme was over-subscribed and we ended up missing out, which seemed like a disaster at the time. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise…
Having left the Feed-in Tariff behind, we were able to apply for a large grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). We are delighted to now be in the final stages of appraisal for this, and it looks very promising that we will soon receive the good news we have been waiting for.
Another major step was issuing a tender for the final engineering design and construction management of the project. We are currently reviewing the bids and expect to appoint the successful firm very soon. This will allow us to really speed up with the system design and begin procurement of the civil works and turbine supply.
In the meantime, we are doing a bit of technical work ourselves. For screw projects, it’s crucial to have an accurate model of how the upstream and downstream water levels vary. Our project developer Will has been working through Environment Agency data to help ensure we have a complete set of flow & level data for use in the detailed design. This is especially important at this site, as we need to account for factors such as spring tides and harbour ‘scouring operations’.
We’re also continuing our discussions with Bristol City Council Harbour Office to confirm how the hydro scheme will interact with harbour controls, as well as discussions with the BCC planning team and Environment Agency to begin discharging our pre-commencement conditions.
There have been a couple of recent surveys too: one by Fauna Forest Ecology to check for any evidence of bird nests or bat roosts on the site, and another by Wesson Environmental to check for contaminated land issues. Both have given us the all-clear, subject to following certain procedures during construction.
All in all, we are continuing to make good progress!
How can I get involved?
We are hugely grateful to everyone who supported this project in our Crowdfunder last year, which has enabled us to continue pushing ahead with the project this year. And the lovely, supportive comments really fuelled our ambition and determination to make this project succeed!
We are now entering the project delivery phase, so please do support us by investing in our latest share offer. You can invest anywhere from £100 to £100,000, earning a projected 3.5% return on your investment and enabling projects like Bristol Community Hydro to become a reality. By investing, you will officially join Bristol Energy Cooperative as a shareholder and will be able to vote at our AGM.
If you can’t invest right now, please do support us by letting others know about our share offer, whether on social media or in person. Otherwise, please do feel free to get in touch with us if you have any questions, we are always happy to have a chat.