The Reading Hydro Community Benefit Society will take forward the development, and ultimately operation, of the hydro project.
We’re currently pulling together the full technical and financial plan for the project. We’ve chosen the most appropriate and cost-effective technology. Now we are re-submitting for permits and permissions and finalising the design. We’re also in the process of raising the funds required for the design and final permissions stage. We’re aiming to apply for pre-accreditation for the Feed In Tariff before the March 2019 deadline, before this government support for micro renewable projects ends.
The River Thames already has several existing micro hydro power schemes, including one at the site of the ancient mill at Mapledurham, and another at Windsor, giving power to the castle. Several others are being considered by local groups and businesses along the Thames. In Reading, our community cooperative is planning to harness the river’s power.
Choosing the Technology and Location
Downstream of Reading Bridge this wide weir spans across from Caversham Lock to View Island. A public footpath runs across the top of the weir. Reading Hydro plans to put in a small hydro electric power generating system crossing under the footpath close to View Island.
We have selected VerdErg’s Venturi Enhanced Turbine Technology (VETT) as a cost-effective British design. Using widely available turbines and generators in an innovative yet simple pressure-amplifying set up it makes the most of low head, high flow settings such as this. [Head is the drop in water level from upstream to downstream of the system].
The hydro scheme will go under the footpath and extend some metres downstream mostly under water. This gives it a lower profile and much less noise than the commonly used and bulkier reverse Archimedes screw technology. Micro hydro schemes operate for much of the year, producing a reliable and unobtrusive renewable source of energy.
Being close to the train station and town centre and easily accessible on foot, the hydro scheme will be open to all to visit. Local schools, as well as universities and community micro generation groups from around the country can have access whenever they wish to. We also aim to share our monitoring data under open data standards, so it can be used by anyone who wishes to.
We are examining different options for selling the electricity generated, including emerging local supply mechanisms. After costs are covered, profits will go to return back to investors and invest in local community sustainability projects.
Getting the Structure Right
Reading Hydro is a Community Benefit Society, so anyone who becomes a member has an equal vote in how it is run. We have a wide variety of members and volunteers, including the current 6 directors. There are many different ways in which you can support us.
Supporting the Local Environment
A natural fish pass will be added to enhance the environment, running through the trees of View Island, using the existing topography. This aims to make it easier for fish to pass up and down stream than through the current steep fish pass, which shall also remain in place.
We applied for planning permission in the Summer of 2015, with the decision made by the Planning Department in May 2017 , as we fulfilled all the requests by the Environment Agency, and have the relevant licenses from them. One of these was to produce a contaminated land risk assessment, involving wide research of the local history and geology, which we shall openly share through this website.
Following the change in technology we have now updated the application and resubmitted, now awaiting this updated planning permission, to ensure we can go ahead before the end of the Feed in tariff next year.