Plea to public as deadline nears on hydro electric dream project

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VOTERS now have less than a week left to help an eco-power generation group secure £100,000 towards a “green” energy project on the River Don in Sheffield.

The organisation Sheffield Renewables is behind the innovative scheme at Jordan Dam, which would use a modern Archimedes screw to generate up to 310,000 kilowatts of energy each year – the same amount as would typically be used by 80 average-sized family homes.

Jordan Dam is one of the six shortlisted schemes in the “large” category of the national Energyshare contest, which is run by British Gas and celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s environmental organisation River Cottage.

An online public vote, which runs until 5pm on Saturday, December 3, will select the winning project, which would then receive £100,000 in funding.

Almost 16,000 people have already cast their votes, and all those who vote are also entered into a draw to win prizes including River Cottage Veg cookbooks.

Director of Sheffield Renewables, Mark Wells, said: “We would encourage everyone to vote for Sheffield by registering support and voting for us.

“It is a free and easy way for people to get involved, helping to develop local renewable energy schemes.”

At present, Sheffield Renewables is second in the public vote, behind Hexham River Hydro.

Also in the running is Harbury Energy Initiative, a project which would make community buildings in the Warwickshire village more energy-efficient, and The Hub in Lyme Regis, Dorset, which would renovate a former Boys’ Club which closed down more than five years ago.

Other finalists in the large scheme category are the Greater Manchester Carbon Co-op, which aims to set up an education programme to reduce householders’ energy usage by 80 per cent and the Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network in Cornwall, which intends to install solar panels on the roof of the town’s primary school.

Backing Sheffield Renewables’ scheme are politicians including Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield and deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Mr Clegg, who is also MP for Sheffield Hallam, said: “I have been impressed by the work undertaken by Sheffield Renewables to develop a community hydro-electric plant on the River Don in Sheffield.

“This initiative – if successful –will benefit the local community by providing it with naturally renewable energy and also will contribute to city-wide efforts to meet targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Planning permission has already been granted by Sheffield Council for the Jordan Dam scheme, which will cost around half a million pounds.

So far, more than £65,000 has been raised through Sheffield Renewables’ “community shares” scheme, which gives environmentally-minded individuals and organisations the chance to buy into the project.

It is hoped that, in total, £250,000 will be raised through the community share scheme, which is set to be relaunched next year.

Project officer Cariad Thomas Cooke said: “We already have planning permission for our scheme, whereas Hexham River Hydro aren’t that far on with their project.

“Our scheme is very much run by volunteers and the fact that we already have planning permission shows how much hard work we’ve been putting in.

“This is the first of what we hope will be many Sheffield Renewables energy schemes around the city which will be run by volunteers.”

Miss Thomas-Cooke urged members of the public to back the Jordan Dam scheme and added: “If we can bring £100,000 to Sheffield it will be great news for Yorkshire.

“Our volunteers have spent a lot of time on this and we’ve already raised more than £65,000, but one way that people can get involved and support ths scheme, without having to volunteer or put in funding, is by simply voting for us.

“We are determined that, one way or another, this project is definitely going to go ahead.”

Another Sheffield organisation, the Friends of Millhouses Park, is also in the Energyshare competition, though in the small schemes category.

If the Friends’ bid for £26,000 wins, solar panels, insulation and a ground heat pump would be fitted at the old corn mill in Millhouses Park, which is currently being refurbished with a National Lottery grant.