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Hydro electric power in the Yorkshire Dales

River Wharfe from Linton Bridge

Proposed site of the Grassington Hydro-electric plant

Walking back past Linton Falls at the weekend, I spotted some building activity at the weir. Could this be the much hinted at, much discussed, work to restore hydro electric power at Grassington?

The first attempt

An hydro electric power plant was first built at Linton Falls in 1909 and it fed Grassington with green electricity until the town was connected to the National Grid. In that sense Grassington was ahead of it’s time, although environmental concerns were hardly part of the thinking in the early years of the 20th century. Just getting electricity was a dream for most in the UK but Grassington was at the forefront of making that dream come true.

Back to the future?

There are now plans to restore the hydro electric power plant using Achimedes Screws generating over 500 megawatts of electricity per hour. And I do hope this was the work that has started on the Wharfe at Linton.

Settle Hydro

One place where a river has already provided a source of green electricity is further into the Yorkshire Dales at Settle.

The River Ribble had long been a source of power to drive industrial development along its banks. At Settle, the weir and waterwheel at Bridge End Mill generated power initially to mill corn then, after conversion, to spin cotton and later still, as a wood working shop, to provide furniture for the growing town. However, waterpower declined as the 19th century came to an end. Gas and electricity were the future. The weir remained on the river but the mill, empty and forlorn, was no longer needed.

Until 2009, that is

Settle Hydro Limited was set up with the objective of installing a ‘reverse Archimedean screw’ into the millrace, and generating electricity for the benefit of the community. From the start this was a community project; shares in the company were sold to raise funds on the clear understanding that this should be viewed as a social not a financial investment. £410,000 was raised and work started in June 2009. By November of that year the scheme was generating 50 kW of electricity, enough to power 50 houses in the town and saving 80 tonnes of carbon a year.

The Grassington scheme

Hydro electric plant, Grassington

Hydro electric plant, Grassington

There is no reason to believe that the Grassington initiative cannot be just as successful. And the idea of a community coming together to make use of the natural resources on its doorstep is very compelling. This is what small towns and villages did as a matter of course in the past.

Update – 2014: The hydro-electric plant is now built and operational.

Generating enough electricity to power 50 houses may not seem much, but it’s a start. And in Grassington, it’s a big chunk of the town!


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