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.

Hydro Links

This page is for specific links to information about micro-hydro schemes and associated developments, mitigation measures such as fish passes, the impacts of weirs, government policy and anything else that feels relevant. They are more specific than the general organisational links section on the right hand side and will be updated as frequently as possible so do check back regularly.

Statutory Notes

The Environment Agency have published the following documents about hydro and are due to publish new guidelines in early 2012:

Good practice guidelines to the environment agency hydropower handbook

Hydropower: A guide for you and your community

The EA's fish pass technical guidelines are also available EA Fish Pass Manual

DEFRA's White Paper 'The Natural Choice: Securing the Value of Nature' places great emphasis on the importance of bio-diversity from all sorts of angles

Sheffield Specific Links

The Sheffield Local Biodiversity Action Partnership's 'Spatial Biodiversity Action Plan' for the River Don and the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation Canals contains information regarding the sensitivity of the Kelham Island site as well as in-depth information about the current state of the River and what will be done to improve it. Essential reading. Further info about Sheffield Wildlife Trust's 'Living Don' project is here.

The Angling Trust

This membership organisation is instrumental in promoting concerns over micro-hydro power schemes and drawing to public attention the damage they are causing. Their very useful guide to objecting to a scheme is here. The Angling Trust's position statement is here and includes examples of good and bad hydro practice. It is MUST reading.

Here's some headlines of late:

Anglers Fume as Regulator Bows to Hydropower

Anglers Fury as Hydro Project Given Go-Ahead

EA Provides Consent to Massacre Eels on River Trent

EA Breaks Promise About River Thames Weirs

EA 'Complacent' about Hydropower Regulation

Government Fails to Ease Passage of Fish

Most Hydropower schemes are a waste of taxpayers' money and damaging to the environment

Tees Barrage Report Confirms Anglers' Fears

The AT's website is easy to search - just pop 'hydro' into the box and see what comes up.


The Salmon And Trout Association's hydro page is here

In the News

Hydro granted on the River Wear Hydro-power scheme in Rookhope Burn at Eastgate divides opinion (Northern Echo June 2013)

Hexham Hydro won £100k in a British Gas competition to build a scheme that will power just 150 homes per year. The Tyne Rivers Trust released this statement in response.

Hexham Hydro scheme 'shelved' due to costs (BBC June 2013 and HH's webpage) .

Brazilian fish ladders come under fire in this informative article from Nature - Fish Ladders of Doom

Short New York Times article with video of the Washington State Governor on the dismantling of the Elwha Valley HEPs


The brilliant Wandle Trust is a charity dedicated to the restoration of the River Wandle. Here's a great example of their weir notching programme.

The importance of woody debris in rivers and streams is explored in this very informative Wildlife Trust publication - Woody Debris Booklet

Chris Firth's '900 Years of The Don Fishery' is available here. This is absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in the history of our rivers and how humans have impacted on them over centuries.

Angling links

Dr Paul Gaskell of the Wild Trout Trust examines the quality of catches above and below a large impounding weir in this free download of a Trout and Salmon article.