Frequently Asked Questions


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

posted 1 Feb 2020, 10:16 by Congleton Hydro   [ updated 21 Feb 2020, 09:02 ]

Here are answers to some pretty common questions we get asked about ourselves and the Congleton Hydro Scheme. Should you have other questions please get in touch at admin@congletonhydro.co.uk

 

What is a hydroelectricity project?+

The energy from moving water in a river is used to generate electricity.  In the past many factories used water-wheels to extract energy from rivers to drive rotating machines such as grinding stones, textile machines, etc.  To create more energy, weirs were constructed.  This project uses the water to force an archimedes screw coupled to an electrical generator to rotate.  The generator converts the rotational energy into electricity.

 

How did Congleton Hydro start?+

A group of enthusiasts for sustainability projects initially wanted to generate electricity from the weir in Congleton Park.  However, this proved economically problematic as the “head” of water is less on this weir than on the 4m high weir at Havannah.  About four years ago this group were joined by other enthusiasts who started to develop a detailed project proposal for Havannah Weir.

 

 What is a Community Benefit Society (CBS)? +

A Community Benefit Society is an organisation governed by a set of rules overseen by the Financial Conduct Authority.  The Rules ensure that any surplus funds are used for community benefit and that all shareholders have equal voting rights.  It also protects shareholders from any liabilities in excess of their shareholding.  A copy of the Society’s rules is available to view or download from the Home Page.

 

Has this been tried before elsewhere? +

There are currently approximately 50 similar schemes operating succesfully on rivers up and down the country.  See www.microhydroassociation.org for more information.  Here is an example of a similar scheme to Congleton Hydro at Whalley in Lancashire – https://www.whalleyhydro.co.uk/

 

Who runs Dane Valley Community Energy (DVCE) and Congleton Hydro?+

DVCE is run by a group of professional volunteers who have been working together to develop the scheme for nearly 4 years.  We currently have 14 active committee members, 6 of whom are Directors.

 

 

When did we get planning permission? +

Planning permission was obtained on 15th March 2019.  The planning application reference number at Cheshire East Council is 18/5811M.  A request for variation to planning conditions to allow limited tree clearance work to commence before the bird nesting season is expected to be approved by 12th Feb 2020 (planning reference 19/5809M). These planning applications can be viewed at http://planning.cheshireeast.gov.uk/.

 

Where’s the money coming from? +

The money is being raised by investors from the community. A share offering has been launched allowing investors to purchase shares up to the value of £70,000.  Their capital investment will be gradually repaid and an average interest rate on retained capital of ~4% will be paid annually over a 25 year period. The target is to raise £730,000 to allow construction and commissioning of the system.

 

How can people invest in the project? +

Click on this link to register to receive a share offer document and a link to the share application page.  The share offering will be open from 1st Feb to 31st March unless the target figure is exceeded earlier.

 

What are the benefits of investing? +

By investing you would

·         Enable carbon-free generation of an estimated 260,000kWh of electricity per year

·         Provide approximately £100,000  for local community projects & organisations over 20 years

·         Increase awareness of environmental issues by provision of an accessible educational resource for local schools and colleges

·         Help to maintain Congleton’s industrial heritage

 

What are the potential risks of investing? +

DVCE and the Congleton Hydro project is run by volunteers as a Community Benefit Society.  Like any business, it depends on its revenues being greater than its operating costs.  Whilst every care has been taken in ensuring that the project has a robust business plan with comfortable levels of contingency, there remains the possibility that unforeseen circumstances could make the business lose money over a sustained period, which could result in it being wound up.  In this situation it is possible that some or all of the outstanding capital that had been invested in shares by an individual or organisation would be lost.

  

When will construction begin? +

Limited tree clearance work will begin in February 2020.  Full construction will commence in August 2020 at the latest.

 

When will the turbine start generating? +

Generation is expected to commence before the end of December 2020.

 

How long will the hydro scheme last? +

The civil structures and the archimedes screw itself will last more than 40 years.  The generator and gearbox is expected to last for more than 25 years.  The electronic equipment has an expected life of 20 years.  The bearings for the Archimedes screw are expected to need replacement every 10 years.

 

What happens in a flood or a drought? +

If the water level gets too high, there is insufficient head to allow the screw to generate power, so it is shut down.  The equipment housing will be above the 100 year flood level record, and all the structures have been designed to withstand flood conditions.  Therefore, after a clearing up operation by volunteers, generation should be able to recommence once the flood has subsided.

Under drought conditions there will be insufficient flow to operate the generator and no revenue will be generated.  However, by installing variable speed control to the screw we will be able to generate some power for approximately 90% of the year.

 

Who has designed the hydro scheme? +

The system has been designed by Derwent Hydro Developments Ltd.  This company has designed 11 similar systems around the UK, some if which it also operates.

 

How much electricity will it generate?

The amount of electricity generated will be dependent on rainfall.  Based on historical average figures from the Environment Agency it is forecast that the system will generate 260,000kWh annually.  This is equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of about 60 typical homes. However, if it had been operating over the past 4 years which have been considerably wetter than average this figure would have been exceeded.

 

Will the project change how the weir looks? +

The installation is on the western side of the weir, approximately 20m away from existing structures,  and is well screened by mature trees.  Therefore, the view from Havannah Bridge will not be significantly affected.

 

How will we protect wildlife? +

Numerous wildlife studies have been performed as part of the planning approval process (see here for the full environmental report).  These studies concluded that there will be minimal impact on wildlife, especially after the construction phase has been completed.  All tree work has to be completed outside the bird nesting season (March - August). On completion, the woodland site will be managed to ensure that it is well maintained to provide a habitat for wildlife.  The boardwalk is planned to include a viewing platform with information about the species which inhabit the area.

 

Why's hydro a good way to generate electricity? +

Hydroelectric generation does not produce any CO2 emissions or consume any natural resources. As such it has negligible negative impact on the environment and is fully sustainable.

 

Who else is involved in the project? +

Industrial partners involved with the project include Siemens plc, and HMK Ltd, both of which have made donations of equipment or provided other support.  Additionally, Eaton Bank Academy have been involved with projects related to the scheme and hosted the initial launch event.  Congleton Town Council has provided support at events and two town councillors are on the committee. Congleton Sustainability Group has provided meeting rooms and Congleton Partnership has provided access at public events.

 

How will we involve everyone in Congleton? +

The Directors of DVCE want as much community involvement as possible.  It is planned that presentations will be made at events run by local societies to ensure all local people are informed about opportunities for hands-on involvement.  Congleton Town Council is planning a series of Congleton Green Fayres, which DVCE will participate in. Volunteers will be needed to regularly check on the condition of the system, and especially to help clear any build-up of debris at the inlet grilles.

 

Is it going to be noisy? +

The background noise from the weir itself is considerable and is expected to drown out any noise generated by the equipment.  A detailed noise study has been conducted and can be viewed here.

 

Is it going to harm fish or newts? +

The Environment Agency (EA) has studied the impact of Archimedes Screws on fish.  It has concluded that fish can safely swim down a screw as long as the maximum speed of rotation is less than 30RPM.  There is no evidence that there will be any impact on newts.  Additionally, we are still in negotiations with the EA regarding including a fish pass in parallel with the screw, which would allow fish to migrate up-river, which has not been possible for the past 250 years!

 

Why local energy?

Generating green energy locally encourages local people to take responsibility for being environmentally responsible and provides an educational resource to ensure that this philosophy is adopted by future generations.

 

Where can I find DVCE’s accounts and society rules? +

The society’s rules can be accessed via this link.

The society’s accounts can be accessed from the FCA Mutuals Register via this link..

Can I invest for somebody else (e.g. children / grandchildren)+

Shares can only be registered in the name of someone over the age of 16.  However, when registering it is possible to express a wish that they be transferred to a nominated person when they reach their 16th birthday.  The new owner will be contacted shortly before their birthday to ensure they agree to owning the shares. Registering this wish can be done by email to sharenergyadmin@sharenergy.coop or by filling in the appropriate section of the application form on page 24 of the Share Offer Document.

Sharenergy will contact all shareholders every year before a payment is due to ask them to confirm the account to which they want the payment to be made (this is not specified during the initial registration process). If you wish payments to be made to another beneficiary (e.g. an adult relative or a charity) this can be arranged by specifying their account details when a payment is about to be made.  The receiver of payments can be changed annually if desired.


What do the various Terms used in the Share Offer Document actually mean?+

 Members of the Society – those who have applied for membership, been accepted by the Directors and have been issued with at least one share in the Society.

Officers of the Society – members of the Society that have been assigned a spthis link.ecific role (such as Director or Committee Member) in accordance with the Rules of The Society which can be viewed via this link

Community Benefit Society – The “Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014” specifies that a community benefit society must be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). To achieve registration the FCA must be satisfied “that the business of the Society is being, or is intended to be, conducted for the benefit of the community”, that the Society has at least three members and has a registered address in Great Britain or the Channel Islands. Dane Valley Community Energy Ltd is registered with the FCA (Registration No 7142).  The FCA maintains a website listing all registered Societies at www.mutuals.fca.org.uk.

 


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