Improved layout for hydropower plant

TLS  presented the WGE Team with an improved design for the hydropower plant layout which is better fitted to the constraints of the site. Adrian Clayton from TLS Renewable Consulting presented our team with an improved layout design for the hydropower plant. The advantages are:

  • Less abrupt intake
  • More streamlined
  • Reduced footprint
  • Regulation fish and eel pass
  • Potentially cheaper to instal

Cambridgeshire adopt a community energy policy

On 16 March 2023, Cambridgeshire County Council formally adopted a Community Energy Policy. Under this policy the council defined ways it wants to work with local community organisations to ensure community driven renewable energy projects are supported. We have endorsed their timely commitment and have approached those responsible to find out how it will apply to us.

Flow loggers installed

On 6 December, TLS Energy arranged for flow loggers to be installed on-site, upstream as near as possible to the input channel and downstream near to the output pipe.

Flow loggers allow the flow of The River Ouse to be carefully monitored through the section where the hydropower installation will be sited, over an extended period of time.

They will record all variations as the flow changes. This refined data will lead to more accurate calculations resulting in better-generating capacity and turbine design.

New contractor announced

From 1 November 2022, WGE contracted with TLS Energy Consulting. They will work with us to complete the remaining funded work through to installation. Adrian Clayton is our Project Manager at TLS. He is one of the most experienced “run of the river” hydro engineers in the country and we look forward to a productive working relationship.

Hydro-electric catch-up meeting

On Wednesday 26 October from 8.15pm at Little Paxton Hub there will be a public meeting about our hydro-electric projects. This is your chance to find out how far we got with projects as well as an opportunity to chat with members of the team. We hope you can make it.

Q&A with the public

How much will the installation cost?

Difficult to say. The estimate provided by our initial contractor was 2.8 million. Our new contractor will provide a more detailed analysis with a different costing.

  • Ongoing cost of maintenance?
  • Terms and cost of site lease?
  • Assumptions of payback electricity?

All these costs are not yet available for reasons given above

Who is doing the feasibility survey?

The Full Feasibility Study was completed by Hydroplan in December 2021. It was accepted by WGE. The contractor commissioned to do the next phase of Business and Development Planning is TLS Renewables Consulting.

When will it be available to locals?

The Feasibility Study is in the process of being linked to our website. TLS are scheduled to report in September 2023.

Why did we change contractor?

Hydroplan would not accept a “fixed priced” contract. We could not risk paying costs which may spiral.

Does the government’s plans to curtail costs paid to generators effect costings?

No guidance available yet on spot price for renewable energy generators.

Website says “comparatively quiet…but to what? What is db rating?

No data available yet, Noise assessment is yet to be done. Very little difference expected from noise of surge over sluice as at present.

How long to construct? What is involved? Digging under road? Road closed? How long?

No available information yet.

How much CO2 involved in construction of the site/delivery of the whole project?

There will be CO2 expended in construction and in delivery and manufacture  of materials .No details yet. Installation should be carbon negative by year three.

Building on a flood plain?

Installation will not increase flood risk and be flood proofed.

Flood prevention at The Mill but is that just moving the water further along the village (Skippers Way, The Offords?)

Capacity to move water downstream will improve .TLS will monitor flow for up to 6 months ,part of which time is expected to be in flood. Overall, we are diverting a very small percentage of river water .

What happens to turbines during flood?Can they be switched off and by whom?

The Environment Agency controls the flow of water through the turbines . The turbines can be switched on or off.

How will the turbine effect the local environment, wildlife, flora and fauna?

The Habitat and Species survey has been conducted and forwarded to the EA .They will not issue a licence if species are in danger. The report gives an environmental clean bill of health. Fish and eel survey still to be conducted.

What measures are being put in place to keep debris that is swept down the river during flood, away from the turbines.

Trash screens and fine screens will be put in place and must be approved by the EA.

What screening will be provided for the residents of Skippers Way?

Plantings of willow and alder will enhance the current landscape and suitable native hedging screening will be planted around the powerhouse.

While the system is CO neutral, how much embedded CO2 is there?

See answers above.

Can we substantiate flood risk reduction from system?

Modelling data will be produced as part of the current phase of development

Will there be much noise?

See four answers above.

Where does it connect?

Connection to the National Grid will be via a sub-Station in Skipper Way. Our power will be put into the grid and probably sold to an ethical supplier or directly to a large end-user through a Power Purchase Agreement .

Where has this been done successfully before?

Lots of examples of successful community hydros throughout UK. We are in contact with Croxford Mill and Totnes. This link will show you where they all are.

How does projected generation compare to actual?

Some installation’s websites give these details

What is the lifespan of a turbine?

Typically, in excess of 50 years.

Where will the electricity be used? Can we use it locally?

No facility available yet.

Where will it link to the grid?

See above.

Capacity to take all the electricity generated?

The National Grid will connect us to a sub-station that will take 200 kw of our power .We are capable of generating a lot more but they have not a cable of sufficient capacity within a viable distance, hence the limitation.

Why link to the grid?

Local direct wiring is the only other possibility. The two nearest possible end-users have been approached, neither has expressed interest.

What is the time scale?

We aim to complete preparatory work and financing by December 2023, install in Spring 2024 and generate during this year.

Where else was evaluated along The River Great Ouse?

We drew on EA research of the River Ouse. Of all possible sites, Little Paxton was ranked second. The highest ranked site was at Eaton Socon. Although ranked highest in generating capability it is unlikely that the EA would have granted a licence as one already exists at this site.

Where can we see a Kaplan scheme working now?

Most are in Europe .There are several in the UK but most were set up some time ago and lack the technical sophistication of what we intend here.

Annual General Meeting 2022

Join us for our second Annual General Meeting for members which will be on Wednesday 26 October 2022 from 7.15 pm at The Little Paxton Hub. You’ll find out more about our Waterside Green Energy projects and chat with our members informally after the meeting. We hope to see you there.

Waterside Green Energy at Paxfest

Waterside Green Energy had a stand at Paxfest on Saturday. We met lots of people of all ages interested in our project. Our Climate Emergency Quiz proved very popular and our “give away bee friendly” wild seed bombs were appreciated by the children. We look forward to a return appearance next year!

What is a Charitable Community Benefit Society?

When our four founder members decided that it was worth pursuing our ambitions for generating electricity from renewable sources for the benefit of local people, we faced with deciding what sort of organisation best suited our purposes.

We conducted extensive research and considered a range of organisational structures from commercial company to full blown charity. The reasons we chose to be a Charitable Community Benefit Society were:

  • it enabled us to formalise the redistribution of profits to local people in need through setting up a Community Benefit Fund
  • we could sell the electricity we generated
  • local people could invest in our enterprise through share issues
  • charitable status afforded us exemption from certain taxes through registration with HMRC, and
  • being “charitable” put us in a favourable position when applying for grants.

Because we are intending to trade we have the dual status of a charitable organisation and a limited company. We have a constitution and rules prescribed by Cooperative UK and we are registered with The Financial Conduct Authority to whom we submit an annual financial statement.

Under our rules we can recruit members (currently £1 membership fee) who must be over 16, approved by the Board and sign up to the charitable objectives of the organisation. We must hold an AGM at which directors are appointed to the Board and members make decisions.

If you would like to learn more or consider joining us then send a message to us via our contact page.

The journey so far

Waterside Green Energy was set up as a community cooperative in February 2020. Our purpose is to research possibilities for generating energy from renewable natural resources.

How does a Kaplan turbine work?

The Mill Lane sluice site on the River Great Ouse lends itself to hydropower generation in terms of water head and flow rate, site access, space and grid connection options.

The difference in water level across the sluice will be able to generate up to 1,100MW hours per year of renewable energy to be generated.

The installation will have the potential to generate 860,000 KW hours per year equivalent to the energy required by over 300 homes in one year. This will save 257 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

How does a Kaplan turbine work?


The site at Mill Lane is suitable for a hydroelectric project. The difference in water level across the up to 1100 MW hours per year of renewable energy. This output will then be generated throughout the operational lifespan of the installation, expected to be a minimum of 50 years.

There is likely to be a limited impact from habitat loss due to the scheme’s construction but it is expected that this would be more than outweighed by benefits to the river ecology by the provision of a fish, eel and otter passage at the site. Benefits to the local community in the form of renewable generation, improved flood resilience, income generation and carbon off-setting would provide ample compensation for any short-term inconvenience during construction.

The land on which the site is based is owned by HDC and the EA both of whom have given their support to go ahead.

The proposed hydro scheme would increase flow capacity past the weir by about 25%-30% which would help build community flood resilience.

The weir currently presents an obstacle to fish and eel migration and there is also an issue with otter fatalities caused when they try to cross Mill Lane. The proposed safe passage for these creatures would have a significant positive impact on the health of the river ecology of the immediate area and also benefit the wider river community.

Our preferred option of three Kaplan turbines technology is based on installation costs, efficiency and suitability of the technology for this particular river profile. Kaplan turbines are more efficient and will generate more power for the flow and head we have here. They are also comparatively quiet in operation since the runner is fully submerged. However, Kaplan turbines are not fish-friendly so fine screening at the intake and provision for safe passage will be built in.

The amount of actual energy generated and available for distribution will depend on the capacity of the connection to the National Grid. Triple Kaplan units with a combined output of 200KW are viable and will be expected to produce sufficient energy to power around 300 homes or accommodate a lot of electric car charges.

It is certain that a hydro scheme developed at Mill Lane, by and for the benefit of, the local community, will produce a sustainable energy solution helping to achieve government targets whilst bringing ecological and potential flood reduction benefits to the area.