It’s been a few years now since the Archimedean screw hydropower turbine was installed and commissioned at Frensham Mill. However, I feel it gives a good insight into what can be achieved at old mill sites. You will see how the owners embraced hydropower and then made improvements to the landscape to increase the existing wildlife and natural habitat of the site.
Frensham Mill is an ancient mill site dating back to at least 1217 when the mill at ‘Feresham’ is mentioned in the Bishop of Winchester’s Rent Rolls. The mill had two mill ponds to ensure that the corn mill had a constant supply of water even if the main river supply ran low; one of which was built on a small Wey tributary carrying runoff from Frensham Great Pond. This large pond feeds into the Wey about half a mile above where the mill was located. The house was re-modelled in 1928 following the demolition of the old mill. At his time a Francis turbine was used to generate electricity. When the Mill was rebuilt in 1876 it was possibly the largest in SW Surrey. The oldest building, the Granary, was renovated in 2012 along with the gardens and the hydro/ heat pump project.
The owners wanted to make the most of the renewable energy potential of the old mill race. The solution was to combine an 11kW Archimedes screw hydropower turbine with a 30kW water source heat pump. Today the mill produces 70kWh of electricity per year and 90kWh of heat, saving over 50 tonnes of CO2 emissions per annum.
The Mill had been a barrier to migratory fish for hundreds of years. In order to improve migratory fish passage the Environment Agency specified a fish pass and upgraded stream to link upstream and downstream for the first time in hundreds of years to encourage trout, eels etc. The river banks were restored and the water meadow was reinstated with wild flowers. Around 10% of the river’s flow is directed down the fish pass and into an old ditch to provide a link between upstream and downstream. A series of 10 gravel pools were installed to step down the levels to the mill pond, providing areas of gravel as potential spawning areas.
The green sand river banks had become severely eroded and were restored with an environmentally friendly planted coir roll system. With the environment utmost in their minds the owners decided to restore the river banks with this system designed to provide an enhanced aquatic habitat both above and below the waterline. Posts were driven into the river bed and pre-planted coir rolls were then placed on top of willow screening and back filled. Today the new banks have become very established.
A survey of the site also found evidence of Serotine & Brown Long Eared bats. A light proofed area and improved access tiles were installed in the main roof as part of requirements to enhance their habitat. A survey found an established badger trail along the eastern boundary of the site ( that was left undisturbed by the works). Water voles and kingfishers have also been spotted on site.
And the Archimedean screw is now set in a garden intended to reflect the spiralling curves of the screw. The water meadow is in the process of restoration with a plan to plant over one acre of wild flowers.
Once again we see the Ancient power of Archimedes being used for hydropower generation because if it’s fish-friendly credentials. The Archimedean Screw turbine provides a fish-friendly alternative to conventional turbines, ideally suited to low-head (1m-10m) sites, and sites with fish protection issues. Extensive fish passage tests have conclusively demonstrated that the large water chambers and slow rotation of the Archimedean Screw allow fish of all sizes, and debris, safe passage through the turbine. As a result, the Environment Agency has agreed that no screening is required.