Lowna Mill goes ‘green’ and cuts carbon footprint with a giant water wheel!

Lowna  has been in the same family since as far back as 1790 as a farm, mill and a tannery. During the first World War it stopped being used as a tannery and  it reverted to its previous use as a small mill and hill farm where a large water wheel generated the electricity. In 2006 the owners decided to renovate the farmhouse at Lowna to bring it into the 21st Century!  Work was last carried out on the farmhouse in the early 60’s so as you can imagine it was in desperate need of modernisation as it was a lovely old but very cold house, and took a lot of energy to only partially heat it.

Photo Credit: Track to Lowna Mill-_geograph.org.uk_-_1522504

Track to Lowna Mill ~ Photo Credit: Gordon Hatton www.geograph.org.uk

The old water wheel was used to grind corn, drive machinery and move hides around – even generate its own electricity before the National Grid arrived in 1952. It had always been an ambition to replace the old water wheel which was in place for two hundred years, using  the old infrastructure already in place.

Site of the original waterwheel

Site of the original waterwheel with old infrastructure in place

With grant aid from the North York Moors National Park Sustainable Development Fund a new water wheel generating all the electricity for the farm, farmhouse and two cottages was installed. With an available head of 2m and a capacity of 305l/s the new water wheel was designed and installed by Mannpower Consulting Ltd specialists in hydropower turbines. With a diameter of 4400mm and a maximum output of 2.6kW the annual output is estimated to be 15,968kWh and an annual CO2 saving of 7 tonnes. Excess electricity is sold to the National grid. The water wheel generates the electricity for the two cottages and the farmhouse with excess being sold to the national grid.

Installing the waterwheel ~ Photo Credit: Mannpower Consulting Ltd

Installing the water wheel ~ Photo Credit: Mannpower Consulting Ltd

The  two barn-conversion holiday cottages had been renovated in previous years, with their heat retaining insulation and double glazing, the owners realised that the farm house had to be tackled from the bottom up! Local craftsmen were employed to carry out the work beginning with the demolition of an old extension to the rear of the dwelling. The old stone and a lot of the other existing original materials were reused within the building of the new structure.

New waterwheel installed in the site of the original waterwheel

New water wheel, generator and gearbox installed

Making the building as energy efficient as possible was a priority for the owners. Having spent years in the old structure with soaring energy bills they realised that now was the time to go as ‘green’ as they possibly could. All the new windows were double-glazed and a new plumbing system was installed using an efficient boiler and condensing water cylinder which used much smaller amounts of energy to retain and move hot water around. Dual-flushing toilets that use less water and a new electrical system and low-energy fittings were installed and energy-efficient A-rated electrical appliances were bought.

Both cottages and the farmhouse have had huge investment in energy saving insulation.  At least 60% of the lighting in the farmhouse uses low-energy bulbs and as lamps and fittings are replaced in the cottages they are being converted to low-energy alternatives. All products and services are sourced  locally and there is a policy of encouraging guests to use the local transport or walk and leave their car behind, energy efficiency, recycling and reusing is implemented wherever possible.

Farndale wild Daffodils, Kirkbymoorside ~ Photo Credit:  Rogeruk ©

Farndale wild Daffodils, Kirkbymoorside ~ Photo Credit: Rogeruk ©

Visitors are encouraged to walk and enjoy the fabulous daffodil walk at Farndale. The beautiful valley of Farndale lies at the heart of the North York Moors. Each spring, its glorious daffodils put on one of nature’s most spectacular shows – a dazzling display of colour that carpets the meadows and river banks along a seven-mile stretch of the River Dove.  The petite wild daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) is one of the native plants and is protected within the Farndale Local Nature Reserve, established in 1955 to safeguard the valley’s famous flowers.

Lowna Mill

Are you the owner of an old mill or mill site that had or still has an existing water wheel? Would you like to generate your own electricity and live a more sustainable lifestyle? Why wait any longer, contact us today and we’ll help you on the road to a ‘green’ future.


Aquair 100 ~ Hybrid wind & water power for long distance sailing

If you haven’t experienced trailing generators and how they work, now’s the time to try them!

Power generation is always a vexed question on a yacht – how much do you need? How will you generate that need? The modern sailing boat needs power – that is, if you want electronic instruments, computers, autopilots, as well as those items of personal comfort, refrigerators, deep freezes or microwaves.

Aquair 100 ~ Photo Credit: Ampair

Aquair 100 ~ Photo Credit: Ampair

Starting the engine every day to generate this power is a simple solution, as more systems means more complexity, and that means more stuff to break down or otherwise ‘go wrong’. However, that is not a viable option because fuel today is not only environmentally harmful but also expensive and getting more and more expensive. The wind and the sun are more and more being exploited by governments of the world in an effort to cut the use of depleting reserves of ecologically harmful fuels, and the cruising sailor need to take this ‘on-board’ as well.

The Aquair 100 wind and water turbine, ideal for ocean crossings and long distance sailing

The Aquair 100 water turbine has been designed specifically for charging batteries over long distance crossings and converts to a wind turbine at anchor. It has been reliably powering boats over long distance crossings and at anchor for 35 years. Mounted to the stern of the boat and trailing a towed water turbine on 30 metre line, the unit provides over 6 Amps continuously at 7 knots.

At anchor, the unit can be converted to run as a wind turbine. Unlike their competitors, Ampair have maintained a very small form factor for the Aquair making it the smallest hybrid generator on the market. If you are making an ocean crossing the Aquair 100 is perfectly suited.

Mounted to the stern of the boat and trailing a towed water turbine on 30 metre line

Water Mode – The Aquair 100 is designed for yachts cruising at 4-15 kts. The standard pitch turbine surfaces at 7kts and skips at higher speeds, so a coarse pitch turbine is used on yachts which sail at 8-12 kts. At 7kts the turbines drag is 17 lbs: it will not noticeably slow the yacht . The standard stainless steel gimbal ring mounting provides a simple and automatic alignment method and can be rigged into the push-pit or mounted in the optional frame for boats without a push-pit. The shaft connector is designed to break to save the generator and push pit if the turbine becomes trapped.

Aquair 100

Wind Mode – The Aquair 100 can also be used as a wind turbine when at anchor or in harbour.  Using a “rope only”, hoist-in-the-rigging system (HIR).  A halyard lifts the Aquair 100 away from busy cockpit into clear air. No noise or vibration to worry about!  A pole mount option is available for yachts with stern gantry or similar.  A short pole is welded, clamped etc. to an existing structure.  A single electrical connection then serves wind and water modes.

Advantages – Use of the Aquair 100 greatly reduces the frequency of engine running to recharge service batteries. The turbine generates sufficient power to run an autopilot, maintain navigation equipment or support a fridge. It produces a continuous output of up to 6 Amps at 12 volts. Its permanent magnet alternator with built in rectifiers has no commutator brushes and the windings cannot overheat so it requires no thermal cut-outs or protection.

Regulator – The Aquair 100 can be used without a regulator in water mode as you can just pull in the line if the batteries are charged, if you prefer autonomy and will also use the turbine in wind mode any of the 100 series regulators can be usded.

Aquair 100 specifications and dimensions

Eco Evolution are the official Irish distributors and installers of Ampair products. We have been supplying various sailing clubs and the Marine industry throughout Ireland with the Aquair 100. If you would like more information on this or other Ampair products or would like to receive a brochure please contact us here.





Mapledurham Watermill ~ the last working cornmill on the Thames.

Over the last couple of weeks Frank has been in the UK commissioning various hydropower schemes around the country. During this time he also carried out some maintenance work on the Archimedean Screw Hydro Turbine which was recently installed  at the award winning Mapledurham watermill to generate clean green elcetricity which is being sold to the national grid. The watermill is the last working corn and grist watermill on the River Thames and is still producing high-quality stone-ground flour today.


Mapledurham Watermill with working waterwheel and Archimedean Screw

A mill was already situated at Mapledurham at the time of the Domesday Survey. The central section of the current mill building dates back to the 15th century. Originally the mill had a single water wheel, on the river side of the building. The mill was increased in size in the 1670s, and a leat was constructed to drive a second water wheel on the village side. It is this second wheel which is still in use today. At its busiest it employed five people, and the miller was prosperous enough to rent the finest house in the village street.

Mapledurham Watermill - last working watermill

In 1690 the mill was leased to James Web for the sum of £60 per year. Around 1700 he expanded the mill again, to allow him to install the equipment to produce the refined flour that was becoming popular. His son Daniel Webb took over from him in 1726 at a rent of £100. Thomas Atrum took over the mill at a rent of £150 p.a. in 1747, which was raised to £205 in 1776. In 1777 a barn was added on the mill island, and a wharf built to allow the mill to supply flour to the London market by barge. However by 1784 Thomas Atrum was bankrupt.

Mapledurham watermill

Mapledurham WatermillThe mill continued to flourish, and as late as 1823 plans were drawn up to rebuild the mill in classical style. The advent of cheap imported flour from North America damaged the mill’s prosperity, but it remained in use until just after the Second World War. It was restored and brought back into use in 1980.


Original Waterwheel at Mapledurham watermill built in 1670

Built in 1670 the waterwheel at Mapledurham watermill still grinds flour today

Over the years some of the paddles of the existing original wheel were beginning to show their age so these paddles were replaced so as to extend the life of the waterwheel and to allow it to continue to grind the flour. A new waterwheel is currently under construction and it is hoped that it will be installed during the Summer. The main reason for replacing the wheel is the appearance of a number of splits in the wheels framework and also many of the joints are showing signs of decay and movement. The wheel will be as exact structural copy of the existing one and will be made out of oak which has been sourced from the Mapledurham Estate.

The new oak waterwheel in construction ~ Photo Credit: www.mapledurhamwatermill.co.uk

The new oak waterwheel in construction ~ Photo Credit: www.mapledurhamwatermill.co.uk

An Archimedean Screw hydro turbine was designed and installed in 2011 to replace the original turbine that had fallen into disrepair.   The 7.27 m Open Compact Archimedean Screw has a capacity of 5,000l/s and a predicted output of 99.95kW. It is estimated that it will save 221 tonnes of CO2 per annum. Over the course of a year, the screw will produce approximately 500,000kWh of renewable electricity which is being bought by Marks and Spencer via the national grid. The electricity generated is sufficient to power one of its stores.

Archimedean Screw

Archimedean Screw

The mill produces stone-ground flour using a waterwheel. Wholemeal and white flour, bran, semolina and Millers Mix, a blended combination bran and semolina, are all produced at the mill. The Mapledurham estate also produces milk for Marks and Spencer. When the sale of the electricity has covered the cost of the turbine, the profits will go towards renovating the mill and its outbuildings to how it was 200 years ago.

Mapledurham Watermill

Parts of the original machinery from the watermill

The mill is located in the grounds of Mapledurham House, and like the house is open to visitors on weekends and bank holiday afternoons from April to September. The water mill is normally working on opening days, and visitors can visit both main floors of the mill, and see  its operation.

The watermill is perhaps best known for its starring role in the 1976 film, The Eagle Has Landed, where the mill leat is the scene of the dramatic rescue of a local girl by a German paratrooper that results in the unmasking and ultimate failure of the raid.

It is also the backdrop in the image on the cover of Black Sabbath (album), by the band of the same name.


Archimedes arrives at Osney Lock!

Osney Lock Hydro is the first community-owned hydro scheme to be built on the Thames.

Constructing a community-owned hydro scheme at Osney Lock has been a dream for local residents for over thirteen years. It started in 2001 with a survey of  Osney Island residents that revealed a shared concern about climate change and a desire to harness the power of the river that ran around the island to generate green electricity. A small island next to Osney Lock was identified as the best site for the hydro scheme. The island is owned by the Environment Agency so they were approached about the possibility of leasing the site. It was discovered that work was to begin on the weir in 2013 so the pressure was on for the residents to draw up plans for the Archimedean Screw and secure planning permission and then most importantly secure funding for the project.

Construction work prior to installation

Construction work prior to installation

There was extraordinary support shown by local people towards the project. The Osney Lock Hydro share offer raised over £500,000 in just four weeks. Without this swift and significant support the project would not have been able to go ahead. Over 40% of the investment came from within a mile of the project and 4 out of 5 investors live in Oxfordshire.

Osney Lock hydro installation

Lifting the 4.35m Archimedean Screw into place

osney lock hydro installation

On Tuesday 25th March at midday the dreams of the local residents came to life when a 4.35m-long, four-bladed Archimedean screw was installed at Osney Lock – the final construction phase of the Osney Lock Hydro scheme. The screw was designed by Mann Power Consulting Limited in the UK and manufactured in the Netherlands by Landustrie. Once operational, the 49kW variable speed Archimedean Screw turbine  will harness the power of the river to generate approximately 179,000kWh of green electricity per year.  When the scheme is completed it will generate enough electricity equivalent to that used to power around 60 houses. It will also generate an income of over £2 million over the lifespan of the project for the community to use for further environmental projects in the community.

Osney lock hydro installation

The four bladed Archimedean Screw being guided into position ~ Photo Credit: Andrew Watson

Over the coming weeks the power house will be constructed and then the gearbox and generator added. Once the Archimedean Screw is commissioned it will generate clean green elcetricity for the Osney Lock community – a long awaited dream that came to life :)

Medieval Water Mills in Ireland

A  presentation on Medieval Water Mills in Ireland will take place on Monday 10th March at 7.30pm at Engineers Ireland, 22 Clyde Road, Dublin 4.

This is a free event hosted by the Heritage Society, in association with the Civil division and the Local Government division.

Old Mill and Mill Wheel

Ireland currently has the largest corpus of pre-10th century water-mill sites (both horizontal and vertical-wheeled) in the world. These provide vital insights into the development of water-powered prime movers elsewhere in Europe, where sites of similar date are generally rare. Indeed, while the precursors of the modern reaction turbine can be found in late Roman Tunisia, the earliest excavated examples of horizontal water wheels with dished or scooped paddles (as found in Pelton wheels) have been excavated in Ireland.

Using recent archaeological evidence from Ireland, this talk will seek to re-evaluate the relationship between mills employing horizontal and vertical water-wheels, and will challenge the notion that vertical wheeled grain mills were necessarily more efficient and productive than mills with horizontal waterwheels.

Water wheel

Dr Colin Rynne BA PhD – Senior Lecturer at UCC’s Archaeology Department.

Dr Rynne has widely published on water power in medieval Ireland and Europe and on the post-medieval and industrial archaeology of Ireland.  His research interests include medieval agriculture, medieval and post-medieval iron working in Ireland and Irish industrial archaeology.  Current research interests include a study of the 17th-century colonial landscapes created in south east Munster by Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork.  He is also completing a major publication on the archaeology of waterpower in early medieval Ireland and Europe, c. AD 600-1100.

Medieval Water Mill excavated at Kilbegley, Co. Roscommon.

One of the best preserved early Medieval Water Mills in Europe was excavated in Kilbegley, Co. Roscommon in 2007. The  beautifully preserved horizontal watermill dates back to between 650–850 AD. During the excavation the remains of the whole lower floor of the mill, with its flume (the chute that carries the water), undercroft, wheel-hub, paddles and a number of other features largely intact were discovered. Artefacts that tell us about the lives of the monks and millers, like ringed-pins, bracelet fragments and leather were also found.

The excavation revealed that the millwrights and monks had an incredibly sophisticated and talented ability to survey and understand hydrological techniques, as the water from the mill came from small springs and local ground water rather than a river.

All of the structural timbers from the mill have been preserved and are currently stored with the National Museum of Ireland until a suitable location to house and display them can be found close to the place they were discovered.

Kilbegley Medieval Water Mill ~ Photo Credit Neil Jackman author of 'The Mill at Kilbegley'

Kilbegley Medieval Water Mill ~ Photo Credit Neil Jackman author of ‘The Mill at Kilbegley’

A book on the excavation ‘The Mill at Kilbegley’  authored by Neil Jackman with Caitríona Moore and Colin Rynne and edited by Tadhg O’Keefe is now available.

You can also hear the story of the mill, and all the other fascinating archaeological sites discovered in advance of the construction of the M6 by downloading the FREE audioguide – The M6 A Route Through Time.

Thank you to Neil Jackman who very kindly allowed me to include the information and photo of the excavation of Kilbegley Medieval Water Mill.