Another hydro scheme under way at Windsor


Riverside Arts Centre,
Thames Street, Sunbury-on-Thames at 3pm on Saturday 15th December


Details of the biggest hydro scheme on the Thames have been announced – and sparked controversy.

The firm behind the scheme at Sunbury weir says it will provide “green, clean energy”  for 600 homes. The company,hp-projects, met residents and river groups to explain their project at a packed, sometimes heated, meeting at Elmridge leisure centre.

Opponents say it is an industrial unit on a picturesque stretch of the river, will damage the environment, and create hazards on the river.

The Sunbury scheme is one of a number being developed by companies and groups along the river in partnership with the Environment Agency. Among them is the prestigious hydro scheme at Romney (pictured above) which will supply electricity to Windsor Castle but is still under construction.

The scheme at Sunbury will involve constructing channels across the lock island so four large Archimedes screws can be installed for the 500 kw power plant. The company says it could be operational six months after getting the go-ahead.

Among the concerns of local residents and river users are –

  • the appearance, an industrial installation on a picturesque island. There were predictions at the public meeting that it would lead to erosion of the island.
  • The effect of creating new directional flows above and below the weir. Residents nearby are worried about increased flood risk and bank erosion.
  • The noise the plant will create close to homes;
  • The effect on wildlife.

Anglers are opposed as they argue that hydro schemes upset the natural eco-balance of the river. Boaters are concerned, among other things, that a newly-created cross-current above the hydro-plant will be dangerous, especially for inexperienced hire boats.

Company director James Heather attempted to allay fears. He said the Environment Agency would be involved at every stage and any licence for the scheme would have strict conditions attached to it.

He said the plant would blend into the environment, and there would be “no significant increase” in noise and it would generate “clean, green energy”. He said the company were consulting closely with the community and with both local and national organisations.

He denied the scheme would create hazards for boats or damage the environment. Conditions would actually be improved for fish he said.

Campaigners say they intend to continue their opposition and will oppose the planning application when it is submitted early next year.

Link to hp-projects website

Story dated December 11th 2012

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