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Discussion > Abingdon and other River Hydro Projects

Nov 6, 2015 at 9:58 PM | Mike Post
Something to celebrate:

The Developer has abandoned the Abingdon Weir Hydro project

I checked and it seems to be a favourite spot with canoeists ..and they had set up a FB protest group
- ..The hydro corp has ALREADY cut down trees and now it's abandoned the plan
- A Newspaper story about the battle
- Hydro projects own website

To summarise hydro is not evil like solar or wind, it can actually work, but it seems here a subsidy hungry developer is pushing around naive optimistic greens into a community NotFor Profit thing which pays the developer.

@Sandy S mentioned Similar projects in the US

@Breath of Fresh Air said : A weir is not going to produce much power, height of the water is much more important than volume in hydro power.

@Tomo said A quick skim of the site makes it seem that they were quite concerned as to what colour the turbine should be and also seem to be apologising for putting a graph on the project web site - obviously got had their priorities right then eh?

"B Ark" stuff - as is the BBC commentary.

Nov 8, 2015 at 2:30 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

MIke explained in detail Nov 7, 2015 at 5:59 PM |

Low-head hydropower on the Thames is a subsidy-farming exercise driven by the Environment Agency which owns most of the Thames weirs.

I live close to the Thames just upstream from Marlow weir, Marlow’s Grade 1 listed bridge and the Compleat Angler hotel. Marlow is affected by flooding. In early 2013 a group of Marlow residents was invited by a hydropower developer to visit Romney weir in Windsor where he was hoping to start generating electricity to sell Windsor Castle. In early 2009 he had taken over the development of low-head hydropower at Romney weir from nPower. nPower had withdrawn because it considered the development unviable. The new developer stated in early 2009 that the project would be completed and generating electricity by the end of 2009 – see . It was not in fact commissioned until summer 2013 - 3½ year later than planned. The developer reported that they had almost dropped one of the two huge Archimedan screws in the river had had twice almost lost the crane.

Despite all the hype, it turned out that the Romney Weir Archimedean screw hydropower development was in fact the developer’s first hydropower project. It has been reported that the same developer has been appointed as project manager for the Teddington weir low-head hydropower community project which has recently been given planning permission by Richmond council. The developer expects to be generating electricity by early 2017. The Lensbury Club, whose amenity will be adversely affected by the development, has said that it is taking the council’s decision to judicial review. In view of the newly-appointed project manager’s record, early 2017 sounds very optimistic.

There is nothing wrong in principle with low-head hydro. There were many thousands of water mills operating in the UK before they were superseded by more economic and technologically superior power sources. The old mill sites have often, as in Marlow, been turned into desirable housing. They can only be re-introduced as hobby, vanity or virtue-signalling projects and especially if poor electricity consumers subsidise them. Low-head hydropower is not 100% reliable but must be shut down during flood or low flow. Noise is also a serious problem during low flow.

The same developer who took so long to develop Romney weir who has been engaged to project manage the development of Teddington weir (and who has Marlow and other weirs in his sights) explained in February 2013 to his guests from Marlow that he was only in it for the subsidies.

In 2011 the same developer was given the sole right to develop Marlow weir for hydropower for two years. We are still waiting. The plans that the Environment Agency has published for Marlow weir show the turbines installed just 10 metres from the windows of the Compleat Angler hotel and immediately adjacent to the section of weir used by canoeists to shoot the weir. Marlow is affected by flooding. In times of flood it is necessary to close off the turbines – Romney power station did not generate for several weeks in winter 2014. Unlike Romney weir, with the Jubilee River as a safety valve, there is no spare capacity on Marlow weir. Closing off sections of Marlow weir will exacerbate upstream flooding. In periods of drought and low river flow the turbines must also be shut off to maintain water levels. There is also great uncertainty about the effect on the ecology of weir pools below these turbines and about the effect on migrating salmon attempting to leap up the turbines.

It is therefore good news that FITS have been reduced. Hopefully we will now see an end to these subsidised throwbacks. That is why the abandonment of the plans to put Archimedean screws on Abingdon weir is something to celebrate. Apologies for the rant!

Nov 8, 2015 at 2:31 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Nov 7, 2015 at 7:47 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney
Mike Post, thank you for a well researched and knowledgeable post - even if it was a bit ranty.

I agree with these three points:

#1 There is nothing wrong in principle with low-head hydro.
#2 Low-head hydropower is not 100% reliable but must be shut down during flood or low flow.
#3 Noise is also a serious problem during low flow.

But the Thames at Abingdon rarely runs close to dry.
Nothing is 100% reliable - floods aren't that common and they would shut down a gas-fired plant if it hit as well.
Noise is an issue, agreed.
Ducks? Ducks know better than to swim over a weir. They'll learn not to swim into a turbine.
What I'm saying is that these systems aren't inherently stupid. Unlike Wind and Solar. Yes, they need to be judged on their individual merits. But it isn't clear to me that Abingdon is obviously a bad place for such a system.

Nov 8, 2015 at 2:42 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Stewgreen said
Power "UPTO 200 homes"
..and I thought do they have pixies in Abingdon ? cos they must be talking about pixie homes.

On checking I see an optimistic* load factor of 50% gives 100 homes
WORKING :The rubbish definition of the electricity unit home (explained here on BH) is about 0.5KW on average each hour x24x365
So 200 homes is 100KW average use
and divide that by the ACTUAL working load factor* to get your turbine size

On their tech page they explain they have to limit the turbine size to bellow 100KW to qualify for FIT
...Well hangon at 50% load factor that's 50KW average output =about "100 homes"

Nov 8, 2015 at 2:44 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

checking for similar projects

#1 Windsor project is sold as "The Queen goes green: ...The Queen has taken delivery of two giant hydroelectric turbines" in a 2011 childlike story in the Telegraph (churning the developers PR ?)

#2 The protesters FB page mentions a visit to the "the much-vaunted Osney Hydro scheme so see how it was getting along. The answer is that it isn't!! The EA has been monitoring the output of this and the private Osney Mill installation and since the beginning of June while the latter has generated minimal power, the Osney 'Community' Hydro has turned in a big fat zero! Worse the 'visitor centre' is incomplete and surrounded by fences - a real eyesore. And none of the carbon generated in its construction has been repaid so the scheme has contributed to global warming not reduced it! "

Nov 8, 2015 at 2:49 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Since the project people seemed too optimistic I wondered what the real LOAD FACTOR of working hydropower on similar projects was ?
I saw that Mike had been unsuccessful in gettting the figs having been given the run around between, FIT dept, EA and the developer.
There were two requests :
#1 was Office of Gas and Electricity Markets
That guy did try to be helpful
"I have checked with our Feed in Tariff team and we do not hold this information for individual small generating stations.
The supply company that pays the particular generator will be the source for the information.
I have completed a quick search of the FIT register .."and I he couldn't find it listed.

#2 Environment Agency West Thames
EA : "We do not hold records of the power generation of the turbines. This is a matter for the developer."
Mike said "Since the developer is receiving Feed in Tariff payments, surely such information should be in the public domain?"
EA replied.'Why don't you phone the developer, I did and he told me records for power generation were not in the public domain.'
Mike : "Unfortunately Mr DeChambeau does not reply to letters or emails."
EA : "there is nothing further that we can do on this matter."

On those links pay look at the RHS of the screen and you'll see a list of SIMILAR REQUESTS Mike and other people have made

Nov 8, 2015 at 2:51 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Nov 8, 2015 at 11:48 AM | Tomo
I have a bit of experience of the community interest companies trying to do hydro - words like complacent, sanctimonious, naive and ignorant usually apply - plus a belief in magic money trees and the primacy of their mission....

The projects do *not* usually seem to be driven with the completion of the declared outcome as a priority - and transparency seems also to be a problem.

Of course when the Environment Agency gets involved - things have a tendency to get derailed. (obligatory swipe)

@Mike Post fwiw - for most low head hydro schemes it is not entirely clear that the "increased flood risk" is significant - flood risk assessments and modeling (that word!) do not have a happy history at the EA..... In many cases (most I would venture) it might be that the tide mark in your living room might be 10-15mm lower, possibly... if the turbines were not there..... after a flooding / high flow episode. Once the weir is drowned the flow obstruction contribution from the hydro is usually minimal / very small.

Nov 8, 2015 at 2:53 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Nov 8, 2015 at 1:30 PM | Mike Post
@M Courtney : I am certainly not an expert on river flows, but surely the reason that the Thames does not run dry at Abingdon is because of the weirs which were built centuries ago to enable the Thames to be navigable? When flows are too low, operators of Archimedean screws are not permitted to abstract water and the screws therefore do not generate electricity.

Provided they do no harm, such as causing upstream flooding, noise nuisance or damage to fisheries, there is IMHO no reason at all why these miniature power stations should not be installed by any landowner. But paying the landowner subsidies to generate expensive electricity when the subsidies come from other grid electricity customers actually does do harm. The collapse of the Abingdon Hydro project demonstrates that these schemes are unviable without subsidies.

Incidentally, it was a fisherman who has fished in the weir pool below Marlow weir for many years who was responsible for “something to celebrate”.


I did not succeed in obtaining the actual working load factor at Romney weir, but last time I visited about a year ago I think, the screws were turning at 8 RPM. When the power station was commissioned in 2013 they were turning at 22-23 RPM.

In their last response to me to an FOI, the EA threatened that they would refuse to answer any more requests from me. The Variable Pitch website does not help because Virginia Station, as the Romney weir hydro is known, does not report its details.

Nov 8, 2015 at 2:57 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Nov 8, 2015 at 1:59 PM | Mike Post
The EA is so useless that in 2014 it published a historic flood map of Marlow which purported to show properties which had flooded in 2003 and 2014.

It showed houses, such as my own, which have never flooded as having flooded and showed houses which had flooded as having not flooded. This is very damaging and resulted from incompetent use of aerial photography. I made an FOI here

The response acknowledged,

“This map shows your property as being at low risk from flooding. We have reviewed the 2003 aerial photographs again and can acknowledge
that you have a valid point in stating that your property did not flood
during the 2003 flood event as indicated on the historic map. We will update the 2003 historic flood map by the end of September 2014 and this will be reflected in the published flood map for planning purposes by the end of November 2014.
I am sorry about the error in the digitisation process and we will be
updating the maps to reflect the revised information.”
But how many other houses in other flood risk areas have been affected by the EA’s incompetence?

Finally, I cannot agree with your assertion about the effect of Archimedean screws on weirs. The two bays for the proposed Marlow weir Archimedean screws obstruct a significant percentage of the weir. It is not a case of a watermark being a few more centimetres up a living room wall, it is the marginal question of whether or not a house gets flooded at all. It is my intention to make sure that my house and my neighbours houses do not get flooded at all as the consequence of green imbecility on behalf of the Environment Agency.

Nov 8, 2015 at 3:02 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Nov 8, 2015 at 2:06 PM | Mike Post (re-edited by stewgreen)

There really is so much BS associated with the EA and “green” development. In an article headed, “On Her Majesty’s Service” in the October 2012 issue of the magazine, “International Water Power & Dam Construction” , the developer of Romney weir wrote, “The turbines at Windsor Castle are unique in several ways and we have been awarded a grant from the European Union Redevelopment Fund (sic) (ERDF) to study the developments and improvements we have made to the technology."

The Romney weir developer admitted that Romney was his first low-head hydropower development. Romney only came on-stream after many mishaps in mid-2013. Yet in 2011, the Environment Agency awarded this developer sole rights to develop Marlow and other Thames weirs for hydropower.

It turned out that the developer’s claim that a grant had been awarded was incorrect. The grant application by Windsor and Maidenhead council for £940,700, a substantial amount of which was to go to the developer, was rejected by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) who wrote to me to that effect on 13 December 2013.

The person at the Environment Agency who is charged with squandering the nation’s resources on low-head hydropower on the Thames remarked to the press in 2013 that Marlow weir is “hardly a Turner landscape.” In fact, Turner painted and drew many weirs. Marlow weir was one of them.

Nov 8, 2015 at 3:04 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Stew, your link to "On Her Majesty's Service" in the October 2012 edition of International Water Power and Dam Construction takes you to an on-line dating site!

Nov 8, 2015 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Post

Ah I notice it's got the '403 proxy work around' embedded in the link so that's their advert
Here's a clean link"

On Flood risk : I might be wrong , but I thought I'd read that an impact of hydro is that when you get heavy heavy rain it causes abnormal flow conditions to come up so you have protect the turbines instead of letting the high flow smash over them. Micro-hydro turbines can have rigs so they can be lifted out of the water for the duration,

I think I read something like instead of fully opening sluices upstream and let water pass over Abingdon weir and further on, it was likely more would be held back upstream thus flooding more farmland up there

An interesting 2011 BBC article lists more schemes

I see the TAC Thames Anglers’ Conservancy are big on hydro opposition and have pages New Threat to our Rivers from Hydropower Grants and Another huge page of info

Nov 8, 2015 at 4:17 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

More good news. Teddington and Ham Hydro launched a share offer about a week ago to try to raise £2m to start building their subsidised Archimedean screw power station next to the Lensbury Club (which is taking the planning approval to judicial review). So far just over £100,000 has been raised and the offer closes on 26 November. After 30 November the tax breaks are withdrawn so it looks as though the share offer will be a flop. Perhaps this will mark the beginning of the end of this retrograde nonsense!

Nov 21, 2015 at 9:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Post

An early Christmas present for Marlow.
Three hydro power schemes on the River Thames have now been shelved because of a change in Government policy on renewable energy.
But three others at Teddington and Ham, at Runnymede and at Culham are said to be going ahead after beating a Government deadline.
As previously reported on River Thames News backers of a scheme at Abingdon have announced they will no longer go ahead because, among other factors, "the incentives that were designed to encourage groups like ours have been cut drastically."
Now it has emerged that two more hydro schemes at Boulters Lock, Maidenhead, and at Marlow will no longer go ahead.
Renewable energy supporters blame the Government's decision to scrap "pre-authorisation" - a guarantee of the price at which companies can sell the electricity they produce once the plants are built.

David DeChambeau, CEO of SE Power Engineering, whose Romney installation produces power for Windsor Castle, said: "The new rules make it impossible for investors because there is no way of predicting the return on investment.
"It is a great pity because both Boulters and Marlow are ideal sites for hydro projects."
The full report is at: - the reference to “pre-authorisation” in the report should have been to “pre-accreditation” whereby developers were able to lock in higher rates of subsidy paid to them through increases to all customers’ electricity bills.
In addition Teddington & Ham Hydro’s unsuccessful £2m share offer to fund the building of the Archimedean screw scheme at Teddington Weir next to the Lensbury Club, which closed on 26 November, raised only just over £700,000 or £1.3m short. Once the legal challenge by the Lensbury Club and Pinenorth – the owners of Teddington Studios - to Richmond council’s planning decision is resolved, it is Teddington and Ham Hydro’s intention to raise the balance of approaching £3m with a second share offer. This must put the Teddington scheme in doubt.

Dec 16, 2015 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Post

The new Hydro FiT rates are:

<100kW …………..…8.54
100-500 kW …………6.14
500-2000kW …………6.14
>2000kW ………….…4.43

Previous rates and bands were:


A big hit on smaller schemes: the Teddington scheme at 492kW had been carefully sized to maximise tariff advantage.

Dec 19, 2015 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Something more to celebrate. Plans for a subsidy farm hydropower station on Teddington Weir have been quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Aug 11, 2016 at 4:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Post

The newspaper bitterly begins
"A leisure club owned by a multinational oil giant has succeeded in blocking a hydroelectric renewable energy scheme next to its land at Teddington Weir after months of legal wrangling."

The thing is the developers have to pay £55K towars Lensbury's that is likely to put them off resusubmitting the plan

Lensbury have a statement on their website
“Both Lensbury and Shell strongly support the principle of a hydro-electric power development on Teddington Weir. However, we understand that Lensbury is concerned that the current development plan doesn’t fully address environmental impacts, noise issues, flood risk during construction and impact on conservation areas.”

New statement from Lensbury about the court decision

Aug 12, 2016 at 9:20 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen