Planning permission has been granted for a micro hydro scheme on the River Don at Kelham Island in Sheffield, despite the fact that it will generate enough electricity to power just 20 homes per year, provided there is enough rainfall and the scheme is managed and operated with maximum efficiency. The scheme in Sheffield is not unique - many thousands of sites across the UK have been identified as 'suitable' for micro hydro development and they are being universally sold as a serious 'green' alternative, a key part of Britain's energy future and a lucrative 'community-based' investment that will help power the nation, paying sustainable dividends to those willing to part with their cash. This blog is a public resource designed to demonstrate the negative ecological impacts of 'low-head' or 'run-of-river' micro hydro schemes and asks why UK taxpayers are funding their development despite the fact that the evidence from the world over is that they do far more environmental damage than good.

Watch the film, 'Kelham Island Hydro', and ask whether what boils down to be a few kettles' worth of hydro-generated electricity is proportionate to the decimation of our little-understood and very fragile river ecosystems.

If you have problems viewing the film from here, please view on Vimeo or watch on Google where you can also download to your pc.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Hydro Guidelines Omnishambles

From SATA's website...

Angling and conservation groups have expressed alarm at the continued delay in properly regulating the use of hydropower turbines on English rivers despite admissions that the current guidelines for hydropower schemes were ‘not fit for purpose’ and risked long-term environmental damage to fish and other ecology.
At a meeting of on Thursday 11 July, the Environment Agency (EA) board failed to approve new Good Practice Guidelines for hydropower developments because of a lack of evidence provided by the EA executive team to support their recommendations that higher flow protection standards should be adopted. The Angling Trust, Atlantic Salmon Trust, Buglife, Fish Legal, Salmon & Trout Association and WWF have today demanded a moratorium on all new developments until the necessary evidence has been gathered to enable a decision to be taken to protect rivers from further damage.

This latest delay follows years of broken promises and delays with the process of developing the new guidelines. The meeting was expected to approve the executives’ recommendation to adopt new guidelines which would have reduced the amount of water that could be diverted from rivers into hydropower turbines. The proposed guidelines were supported by angling and fisheries NGOs who have attended more than 20 meetings to help draw them up. Their position was based on the best available evidence world-wide, including scores of scientific papers and a review of flow requirements commissioned by the Agency itself from a renowned expert in the field.

You can read the full article here.

Kelham Island Hydro Abandoned!

This is the official statement from Sheffield Renewables on the Kelham Island hydropower project:

Kelham Island has always been a small scheme and therefore difficult financially. Following on from what we have learned from Jordan Dam, we have further concerns about the viability of this scheme. We do not currently have the resource within the group to work through these, therefore we are concentrating our efforts elsewhere for the foreseeable future.

We do believe it has a great potential for outreach and as a celebration of Sheffield’s culture, whilst providing a small but significant contribution to energy demand in the city. Therefore, if any opportunities arise for us to partner with organisations to enable this scheme to happen, we would be very pleased to do so.

Needless to say this is fantastic news for those who opposed the scheme in Sheffield and I'm very grateful to all those who signed the petition. The planning consent will expire in Jan 2015 but I really can't see a way back for it now, and wish Sheffield Renewables all the best in their new ventures, creating genuinely green solutions such as Solar PV arrays for the city.

The lesson from both these abandoned schemes which at first seemed so 'eco-friendly' and profitable, must surely be that the small-scale, low-head, hydropower simply cannot work efficiently and cost-effectively for either man or the environment and we are far better off looking towards genuinely sustainable and 'green' means of energy generation.

Of course the questions about Sheffield's weirs remain. They still continue to pose a barrier to fish migration and cause significant problems for bio-diversity in their canalised upstream sections. Here's an exciting prospect from the Irwell Rivers Trust, although I don't anticipate anything quite so radical happening in Sheffield any time soon!

Keep an eye on the changing image where you can clearly see the immediate improvements to the upstream section which was like a mill-pond before the weir was removed. Great work by all involved!

There's also excellent news from The Wandle Trust that two weirs are being removed from the Hogsmill. See here and here.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Jordan Dam Dead in The Water

The sister project for the Kelham Island scheme will not be going ahead despite raising £200k+ from a community share offer. Why not? Because the developers couldn't afford the fish pass demanded by the Environment Agency. Instead Sheffield Renewables are going to focus on sensible energy schemes such as solar power, according to this report from the Sheffield Star. Great news for our city!

Thursday, 4 April 2013


Here's the trailer for a major new film about removal of huge dams on the Elwha in the US.

For the film-makers, 'Dam removal is no longer the work of a fictional Monkey Wrench Gang. It’s real, upon us, a cornerstone of the modern environmental and cultural movements. The benefits from dams, including hydropower, urban water supply, irrigation, and flood protection have played a critical role in the development of the United States, but river ecosystems and Native American heritage suffered greatly. Now, many of these antiquated relics of the industrial revolution are classified as public safety hazards by the Army Corps of Engineers.'

For more info take a look at the website of this brilliant project. DamNation.