Watershed day for river power scheme

AN ENVIRONMENTALLY-friendly scheme to generate electricity from a river in one of Yorkshire’s national parks has reached a major milestone as a key part of machinery is due to be lifted into place today.

The hydro-electric scheme at Ruswarp, near Whitby in North Yorkshire, has taken five years to come to fruition, and power from the watercourse is due to be generated from the end of next month.

An Archimedean screw turbine is due to be installed today, although the work had to be delayed by 24 hours after mechanical problems with a lorry which brought the machinery on site yesterday.

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The 11-tonne screw, which is named after the mathematician, physicist and engineer from Ancient Greece, is fundamental to generating the electricity as the force of the river will make it rotate to power generators. The scheme is expected to generate 160,000 kWh of green electricity each year and an income of nearly £1m over two decades.

Colin Mather, a retired civil engineer who lives in Ainthorpe in the Esk Valley and the chairman of Esk Energy (Yorkshire) Ltd, hailed the “momentous moment”.

He said: “Think global and act local has always been one of our mottos and, after five years of planning, obtaining permissions and fund-raising, we are nearing the point of realising our vision of harnessing the power of the River Esk to create clean energy.

“We are grateful to all those who have supported us and, to the members of our co-operative who worked to turn this idea into reality and bring about the delivery of a scheme that can deliver a generation of green energy while offering wider social and community benefits.”

Esk Energy (Yorkshire) Ltd worked with The Co-operative Enterprise Hub – a free service aimed at introducing community-owned renewable energy projects - to launch a share issue last summer, which raised £150,000 towards the total cost of £450,000.

The group formally agreed a contract with Skipton-based JN Bentley Ltd for the design and installation of the hydro-electric turbine.

A fish pass has been put in place alongside the turbine to help to increase salmon and sea trout stocks in the River Esk.

Mr Mather estimated that an eight-strong group has put in a total of 4,000 hours of work to ensure the hydro-electric project has become a reality.