Hydropower generates electricity at off-grid farm

A family living in a remote part of the North York Moors are proving that hydropower really works.

The National Trust owned farm is situated seven miles from the nearest town, surrounded by moorland, has no neighbours, no mains gas, no mains water and no mains electricity. The farmhouse was originally built in 1707 and when the family moved in in 1995 there was no central heating, electric kettle, toaster, fridge, washing machine – in fact there was no electrical mod cons of any description. Bottled gas was used for the cooker and a diesel generator operated  in the evenings only.

The generator was expensive to run because of the cost of diesel (approx £5,000 per year),  spare parts for the generator because it was running for so many hours every day, maintenance, filters etc .

Adding the clear panes before covering the hydropower turbine

The family contacted the electricity board about installing an electricity supply but because their farm was so remote and they were surrounded by moors the cables would have to go underground and this was just too expensive and would also have had an adverse affect on the landscape.

The stream running pass the farmhouse made hydro power seem the obvious choice for power generation but the shallow gradient of the stream initially caused problems because at the time they couldn’t find a suitable turbine for the low head site.

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Photo Credit: Mannpower Consulting Ltd

They then heard about the Archimedean Screw hydropower turbine which operates at low heads heads from 1m – 10m.  Mann Power Consulting Ltd brought the Archimedean Screw turbine into the UK for the first time, and has been at the forefront of supplying this equipment for hydro generation projects since 2004.  After visiting an Archimedean Screw  hydropower project  the family decided that this was indeed a viable option for them to eventually generate electricity.

The North York Moors National Park Authority had also just started a sustainable development fund and the families’ landlord, the National Trust, were keen to tap into that. In 2007 Mannpower Consulting Ltd were  engaged to design and install the Archimedean Screw.

Photo Credit: Mannpower Consulting Ltd

After carrying out a feasibility study it was decided that the best option for the site was an enclosed compact Archimedean Screw hydro turbine as it would not adversely affect property downstream or wildlife. Each Archimedean Screw hydropower turbine is manufactured to be site specific. The enclosed compact allowed the turbine to be positioned underground, minimising its impact on the environment.

Three clear panels enable the screw to be monitored and also allow the workings to be visible to the public. This also allows it to be used to educate the public about hydropower and alternative energy sources.

The Archimedean Screw hydropower turbine blending into the landscape

Rated at 1.0kW and a capacity of 100 l/s and an estimated annual output of 3,500kWh the hydro turbine is predicted to save in excess of 1 tonne of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) annually. An underground cable connects the generator to the control panel in the farmhouse via the batteries and inverter located in the store near the farmhouse. The family can now operate appliances for their home especially a fridge freezer and lights at night – necessities they couldn’t have while using a diesel generator.

Extra batteries were added to the storage so that they can, if fully charged, power the farm for almost a week in the event of no water flow. The family have also installed a solar pv panel to boost their electricity and also a solar thermal panel to supply their hot water needs.

Green energy has made a huge difference to the lives of this family. Is this something you would consider doing?