Hydro teams up with Eco Homes to win Carbon Challenge funding

Published on Thursday, 16 February 2012 16:33
Posted by Scott Buckler

A collaboration between a community hydro scheme and an ecological housing development, aiming to supply renewable energy to the Lancashire village of Halton, has won a £432,900 Government grant

Halton Carbon Positive was this week named as a winner of the Rural Carbon Challenge Fund, a scheme managed by Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which aims to support renewable energy projects in rural areas across England’s North West.

Halton’s winning scheme brings together Lancaster Cohousing, currently building one of the UK’s largest Passivhaus developments on the banks of the River Lune, and Halton Lune Hydro which plans to install a hydro electric generator on a nearby weir.
The grant will pay for adaptations to ensure the hydro’s turbine does not harm the salmon, sea trout and eels which the Lune is famed for, and will help fund the installation of a district heating system, distributing heat from a single woodchip biomass boiler and solar thermal collectors to a network of radiators around the Cohousing development via insulated pipes.

The grant is enabling both schemes to install pioneering technologies, developing the skills and experience to enable these technologies to become viable without grant funding in the future.  District heating systems, while common in other countries, are unusual in the UK, particularly the combination of biomass and solar. The hydro’s unusual Kaplan turbine means it can work on a much lower head of water than that needed for the archimedes screw type turbines used in most hydro schemes. 

The hydro scheme, owned by the local Community Association, will save over 530 metric tonnes of carbon a year.  It will produce enough electricity for an estimated 264 homes, including Lancaster Cohousing’s 41 homes and 1000 square metres of low carbon workspace in a disused Mill building which Lancaster Cohousing is eco renovating.

The Cohousing development, where private homes sit alongside communal facilities, aims to deliver zero carbon homes through use of renewable energy. Electricity will be supplied by the hydro and solar panels, and heating and hot water from the woodchip biomass boiler and solar thermal. The Passivhaus homes will need minimal heating – costing about 10% of what it costs to heat a conventional home - because of their top-notch insulation, airtight construction and southerly aspect.  The cohousing approach, which encourages the pooling of resources, also reduces carbon consumption through sharing. For instance at Lancaster, a communal laundry will mean home owners won’t need their own washing machines and residents will share cars through a car pool system.

These projects are part of larger ambitions by the village of Halton to reduce its carbon footprint and it is already being recognised as a leader in this field. It has been selected as a Low Carbon Community by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and was chosen as the location for this week’s launch of the Rural Carbon Challenge Fund. The launch, on 21 February, is taking place in the village’s new community centre, which also has solar PV panels, solar hot water, a ground source heat pump and harvested rainwater for toilet flushing. Profits from Halton Lune Hydro will be ploughed back into the community, including energy saving, carbon reduction and sustainable living schemes.

“Halton aims to deliver an ambitious and innovative local response to the challenges of climate change and economic recession,”
said Brian Jefferson, chair of Halton Parish Council and originator of the hydro project. “We want a thriving and sustainable local community, with local jobs that don’t harm the environment, and to show what can be achieved by a community working together.”

Huw Johnson, a director of Lancaster Cohousing, said:  “The philosophy of cohousing is based on using the resources available within the community to build a more sustainable, supportive and better way of living. We are delighted to be working with the village, and the hydro project, to help us achieve our aim of having zero carbon homes by sourcing energy from local, renewable sources.”

The hydro scheme will be raising further funds through a commercial/charity sector bank loan and a proposed community loan invitation scheme which will be launched when all planning and environment permissions have been obtained.


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