A look back at 2014 – the power of water!

The blog has been quite of late so now its time to get back into the swing of things.  And what better way than to look back on some of the most memorable posts of 2014.  While looking back through the posts over the past few days it has stuck  me just how busy we were in the last year!

We have had to spend a huge percentage of the year traveling and working in the UK due to the lack of support mechanisms and action on microgeneration here in Ireland. In December ESBCS withdrew their export tariff scheme to new microgeneration customers which now means there is no financial incentive in this country for microgeneration as ESBCS were the only supplier offering such a tariff. Contrast this to the ROCs system in NI and the REFIT scheme in Britain, both these schemes pay for actual generation not just what is exported, there is a smaller top-up payment for export. On the brighter side we got the opportunity to travel through the most scenic countryside to visit and work on beautiful rivers and old mills.

Working in the great outdoors

Working in the great outdoors

Penllergare Valley Woods.

Almost a year ago to the day we visited Penllergare Valley Woods located on the northern fringe of Swansea. It was once a famous gentry estate and home to John Dillwyn Llewelyn, the notable 19-century horticulturalist, philanthropist and pioneering photographer. The development of the hydropower scheme in Penllergare Valley Woods will generate sufficient power to meet the needs of the sites new visitor centre and excess sold to the National Grid, raising an expected £10,000 per year for the trust. The Archimedean Screw with a length of 11m and a capacity of 2880 m3/h is situated next to the waterfall at Penllergare Valley Woods.

Archimedean Screw with ell pass running along side

Archimedean Screw with ell pass running along side

 Osney Lock.

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


Osney lock hydro installation

 Mapledurham Watermill

The watermill is the last working corn and grist watermill on the River Thames and is still producing high-quality stone-ground flour today.  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.  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. The new water wheel is the exact structural copy of the existing water wheel and is made out of oak which was sourced from the Mapledurham Estate.

New water wheel at Mapledurham

 Cragside House

Cragside was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity. On the 9th April, a century and a half  after the first hydropower installation at Cragside House a new hydropower turbine arrived onsite. A 21st century, 17m long Archimedean Screw rated at 12kW and weighing several tonnes was craned into position at the southern end of Tumbleton lake and  will produce enough energy to re-light the house just like Lord Armstrong did.


17m long Archimedean Screw insitu

17m long Archimedean Screw insitu


The project consists of two 3.6m diameter Archimedes Screw hydropower  turbines. The turbines were designed to rotate at a speed of 28rpm, which produce a maximum power output of 150kW.  The estimated annual power output is 670,000kWh enough electricity to power over 150 homes and gives an estimated annual CO2 saving of 288 tonnes. A small percentage of the power generated is used to power the owners home and the remainder is sold to the National Grid. The fish pass and hydropower scheme was offically opened in 2009.

Wordless Wednesday ~ the power of water!

 Sowton Weir

Sowton Mill stands on the  River Teign in Devon and has been using hydro power for over 400 years, initially to mill corn and then, from the 1950s, to generate electricity.  In the 1980s a 16kW crossflow turbine was installed which was the U.K.s smallest electricity contributor to the National Grid. To improve the power generation and aid fish migration a decision was made to install the fish-friendly Archimedean Screw hydro turbine. Sowton hydropower scheme was developed by a private client to provide a renewable source of electricity to the property on site with all excess power sold to the National Grid.

95kW Archimedean Screw Hydro turbine

95kW Archimedean Screw Hydro turbine

 Tours and Shows

One of the most exciting memories of 2014 was visiting the IFAT show in Munich and continuing on to visit some Archimedes Screw installations in Munich, Czech Republic and The Netherlands. IFAT 2014 is the world´s leading exhibition of innovation solutions for environmental technology. Climate change, rising raw material prices, an increasing number of mega-cities and advancing industrialization in emerging countries  boost the demand for products and services that address environmental and climate challenges. With growing pressures on European countries to reverse years of environmental damage and to find more integrated pollution control techniques, the potential is limitless.


Frank at IFAT 2014

Frank at IFAT 2014

There are many more projects both here and in the UK at various stages of build which I hope to blog about throughout 2015. The projects mentioned are a taste of what community groups, home owners and businesses have achieved in their desire to harness the power of the river to generate green electricity. On our trips around Ireland with the Mills and Millers of Ireland we met several mill owners and enthusiasts who, like us are promoting the benefits of hydropower and encourage and assist in the preservation of old mills which are part of our Industrial, architectural landscape heritage.

We will continue to fight for microgeneration incentives because after all every person or household in the country that pays an electricity bill also pays a PSO. So  it is a little unfair that the ordinary man in the street who pays the bulk of this PSO does not benefit from it in the form of any incentive that would help him to install his own microgeneration.




Chooseday’s Choice ~ Bottled or Tap Water?

Different kinds of plastic can degrade at different times and on average it takes 1,000 years for one plastic bottle to breakdown in a landfill.  Most plastic bottles consist of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) which is made from petroleum and will never biodegrade. About 1.6 million barrels of oil are used every year to make the bottles. The bottled water is then transported long distances via lorries and energy is also used by on board refrigeration methods which makes it a very unsustainable choice.

Although polyethylene bottles don’t biodegrade, they do photodegrade. When exposed to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight they become brittle and start to crack. Plastic bottles buried in a landfill rarely sees the light of day but in the ocean, which is where a lot of discarded plastic bottles end up it is a far different story. With the combination of warm ocean water and sunlight the plastic bottles can break down in as little as a year. Good news you might think but the plastic is broken down into small fragments which are toxic and sadly end up in the stomach of marine animals and birds. The fragments are also washed up and dispersed along our shoreline where we can come in contact with the toxins.

There is no noticeable difference between most bottled water and tap water, either in taste or quality, so it’s much more sustainable to get your water straight from the tap!


You Choose!

Bottled or Tap Water ~ You Choose.

Bottled or Tap Water ~ You Choose.

Water saving tips to conserve water and reduce water charges

The Commission for Energy Regulation has just published the cost of water to Irish households, with charging to begin 1st October 2014. 

Save water

Some key points about the charges:

  • Householders will pay €2.44 per thousand litres of water, doubling to €4.88 to cover waste water also.
  • Charging for all homes will be capped for nine months and those on boil-water notices for 24 hours will not be charged for water supply.
  • Under the CER plan, all customers will have their total water charges capped at the un-metered or assessed charge for nine months
  • The assessed charge for water and wastewater for a one adult household is €176 or €278 for two adults, with children deemed to be free.
  • Those with water unfit for human consumption – on a boil water notice for just 24 hours – will get a 100% discount on the water supply element of the charge, but will still have to pay for waste water if on a public sewerage system.
  • The CER says the average charge will be €238 per annum and it has cut the costs Irish Water can recover between now and the end of 2016 by more than 8% to just over €2bn.

What can households do to conserve water and in turn reduce their water charges.

Water is a precious resource so it makes sense that we conserve as much as possible, wherever possible. Using less water will reduce the cost of water bills and reduce energy bills. Here are some simple water saving tips that can save you hundreds of litres of water per year.

 Water saving tips in the Kitchen:


  • Don’t leave the tap running when washing vegetables, use a bowl – and rather than throwing this water out use it to water the plants!
  • When doing dishes, it’s best to use a water and energy-efficient dishwasher. A dishwasher uses approximately 20 litres. Try to use only your appliances when you have a full load. Today’s models actually save more water than washing dishes by hand. If you decide to hand wash, fill a small bowl with as little water as possible.
  • Keep a container of drinking water in the fridge. With cold drinking water on hand, you’ll waste less than you would while waiting for the tap to change temperature for each glass of water.
  • When cooking, use only the amount of water required; this reduces the amount of water you’ll waste when straining.
  • Fill the kettle with enough for your needs. Don’t boil a full kettle when all you need is one or two cups.
  • A typical washing machine on full cycle uses up to 65  litres of water. Before turning on your washing machine make sure it is full to capacity. You’ll conserve water and save money by reducing your energy bill.
  • Know how to turn off your water supply. This could save thousands of litres of water and can prevent damage to your home in the event of a pipe burst.

Water saving tips in the Bathroom:

Credit: Alliance for Water Efficiency.

Credit: Alliance for Water Efficiency.

  • About 75 percent of the water used in the average home is used in the bathroom. Turning the tap off when brushing your teeth can save over 7,000 litres of water per year. A running tap will dispense up to 6 litres of water a minute.
  • Take showers in preference to a bath. A bath uses an average of 80 litres of water whereas the average shower uses only 30 litres.  Beware a power shower will use over 125 litres in less than five minutes!
  • Flushing the toilet accounts for 30% of household water use. Older models can use up to 20 litres per flush in comparison to the 6 litre flush models currently on the market. Alternatively place a brick or a bottle filled with water in the tank to reduce the volume of water used – take care not to interfere with the flushing mechanism if using this method.
  • Fix all leaks and dripping taps – A hot/cold water tap with a constant drip can waste over a 1,000 litres a month!
  • Replace the washer on the ball cock in you cistern and storage tank if you notice an overflow of water

Water saving tips in the garden:

Credit: How 2 save water

Credit: How 2 save water

  • Collect rainwater in a water butt  fed from your gutters but always make sure to securely cover large containers for safety. Rainwater is excellent for your garden. . Some Local Authorities now sell water butts. Or check with your local garden centre
  • Always use a bucket and sponge to clean windows or wash your car instead of a hose. A hose uses more water in one hour than the average family uses in a day. The car will be just as clean using a bucket of water!
  • Grass can survive for long periods without water and will quickly recover when the next rain showers arrive. Raising lawnmower blades to a higher level will help stop grass from scorching in warm weather. Leaving the clippings on the lawn protects roots and returns nutrients to the soil.
  • Don’t use a hose when cleaning paths, patios and driveways. Use a shovel and brush instead.
  • If you must water your plants, do it in the early morning or evening when it’s cooler. Forget the hose and always use a watering can fitted with a rose.
  • Using mulch such as wood chips, bark or gravel will help prevent water evaporation and will suppress weed growth saving water and the need for weeding. These are especially valuable for shrubs, flowerbeds and new plantings.
  • Regularly check your outdoor taps, pipes and plumbing fixtures for leaks.
  • Remember established trees and shrubs do not need to be watered!
  • Start recycling your green kitchen waste in a compost bin. Compost provides valuable nutrients and helps retain moisture in the soil.

What do you do to save water? Do you have any more tips on saving water in the home and garden?