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Published on October 30th, 2008 | by Ariel Schwartz

60

99 Year Old Hydroelectric Plant Coming Back Online

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October 30th, 2008 by
 
plant

In our search for new clean technology, it’s important to pay attention to inventions of the past. A tiny hydroelectric plant in the Yorkshire Dales area of England is coming out of a 60 year retirement next summer to create renewable energy.

The Linton Falls hydroelectric plant will work with the use of two Archimedean screws. Originally designed to carry water up as they rotate, the screws will generate renewable energy by spinning at high speeds when river water flows through them.

The plant will generate a reasonable 510,000 kWh of energy each year— not bad considering the structure has been sitting dormant for decades. Eventually, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority wants to use up to 50 sites for similar schemes.

While hydroelectric dams may not be appropriate everywhere, the Linton Falls plant proves that we should pay attention to the tools we already have before building new ones.

Photo Credit: The UK Daily Mail

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About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.



  • Uncle B

    Off topic a bit perhaps, but certainly on target: Use modern day super-insulation to help conserve the power we are able to get! No longer acceptable, the Bull Shiite like the “American Dream” lifestyle demands, a smaller scale lifestyle is in order for all of us! Bicycles, humanured, composted, home gardening, Aquaculture, smaller homes, better insulated, and better thought out, less consumption and better use of what we do consume! We face a “Population Bomb”! China suggests it will allow two children per couple to compensate for aging workforce, greater numbers of elders in their population! This means we must share the limited world resources with even more demand (doubled in a decade at least!) from Asians! We face a time when the American dollar once commanded 80% of world’s resources, no longer has value at all! the Chinese “Yuan” is much stronger and will compete successfully against our dollar on world markets even for oil, our old monopoly – the Cartel being broken down as we speak! Iran sold the South Azadegan Oilfields to China recently! (largest discovery in the Middle East in thirty years! Gone!) Transactions? in Yuan not dollars! We get none of this resource in the West! Western civilization is in a precarious position! We must change, cut back, hunker down for the economic storm ahead! Small hydro installations, safe to environment or not, may make survival in the really tough times coming, in the next decades possible! We are forced to play off environmental issues against basic survival, under the Asian pressures on us today! Not nice choices to be made but necessary ones to be sure!

  • Uncle B

    Off topic a bit perhaps, but certainly on target: Use modern day super-insulation to help conserve the power we are able to get! No longer acceptable, the Bull Shiite like the “American Dream” lifestyle demands, a smaller scale lifestyle is in order for all of us! Bicycles, humanured, composted, home gardening, Aquaculture, smaller homes, better insulated, and better thought out, less consumption and better use of what we do consume! We face a “Population Bomb”! China suggests it will allow two children per couple to compensate for aging workforce, greater numbers of elders in their population! This means we must share the limited world resources with even more demand (doubled in a decade at least!) from Asians! We face a time when the American dollar once commanded 80% of world’s resources, no longer has value at all! the Chinese “Yuan” is much stronger and will compete successfully against our dollar on world markets even for oil, our old monopoly – the Cartel being broken down as we speak! Iran sold the South Azadegan Oilfields to China recently! (largest discovery in the Middle East in thirty years! Gone!) Transactions? in Yuan not dollars! We get none of this resource in the West! Western civilization is in a precarious position! We must change, cut back, hunker down for the economic storm ahead! Small hydro installations, safe to environment or not, may make survival in the really tough times coming, in the next decades possible! We are forced to play off environmental issues against basic survival, under the Asian pressures on us today! Not nice choices to be made but necessary ones to be sure!

  • Mike

    I would have to agree with the first commenter to some degree. Hydro dams in general are a disaster to many aspects of society and the ecology.

    Check out Renata, B.C. Canada. The thriving town was destroyed, burned , and flooded to build a dam which would eventually power homes throughout the valley.

    The residents had no choice, and the government bought them out for a fraction of what the real estate was worth. Many did not want to leave.

    Not only is the majority of the valley flooded ( combined two large lakes ), but now the Real estate value is worth Gold compared the amount of electricity generated at the dam.

    This dam also greatly impacts the breeding runs of many fish, including the near extinct salmon.

    I’m all for clean energy; however, dams are not always the way to go. In this case, sure.. the dam already existed.

  • Mike

    I would have to agree with the first commenter to some degree. Hydro dams in general are a disaster to many aspects of society and the ecology.

    Check out Renata, B.C. Canada. The thriving town was destroyed, burned , and flooded to build a dam which would eventually power homes throughout the valley.

    The residents had no choice, and the government bought them out for a fraction of what the real estate was worth. Many did not want to leave.

    Not only is the majority of the valley flooded ( combined two large lakes ), but now the Real estate value is worth Gold compared the amount of electricity generated at the dam.

    This dam also greatly impacts the breeding runs of many fish, including the near extinct salmon.

    I’m all for clean energy; however, dams are not always the way to go. In this case, sure.. the dam already existed.

  • http://url.ie/h1b?878216088 design

    And that’s how desperate we are.

  • http://url.ie/h1b?878216088 design

    And that’s how desperate we are.

  • whome

    Hmmm….instead of going with these small foot print projects to create energy, maybe we should go with coal or nuclear?

    ORRRRR…..we should capture the gases the sheep emit in the background.

    Note:

    Sheep are large producers of gases, which is why we should not wear wool clothing.

  • whome

    Hmmm….instead of going with these small foot print projects to create energy, maybe we should go with coal or nuclear?

    ORRRRR…..we should capture the gases the sheep emit in the background.

    Note:

    Sheep are large producers of gases, which is why we should not wear wool clothing.

  • Seamus Dubh

    RE: joebob

    Actually think of it as 1397 kWh a day. That could power quite a few homes in the surrounding three villages, in the middle of bfe nowhere. And depending on how efficiently or how much they normally use, this’ll put a nice size dent into or completely eliminate their dependence on the grid.

  • Seamus Dubh

    RE: joebob

    Actually think of it as 1397 kWh a day. That could power quite a few homes in the surrounding three villages, in the middle of bfe nowhere. And depending on how efficiently or how much they normally use, this’ll put a nice size dent into or completely eliminate their dependence on the grid.

  • http://inmyohsoveryhumbleopinion.blogspot.com/ Geoff

    Hydroelectric power is only an ecological disaster when monster dams are created, like the Hoover dam. These cause lower water levels downstream, and drastically decrease, if not eliminate, fish populations that use that river for migration. This can cause a chain reaction, putting stresses on animals higher up on the food chain, and causing an overpopulation of those lower on the food chain.

    Hydroelectricity is a good option, but it must be harnessed carefully. Small hydroelectric plants, such as the one in this article, are the way to harness hydroelectric power sustainably.

  • http://inmyohsoveryhumbleopinion.blogspot.com/ Geoff

    Hydroelectric power is only an ecological disaster when monster dams are created, like the Hoover dam. These cause lower water levels downstream, and drastically decrease, if not eliminate, fish populations that use that river for migration. This can cause a chain reaction, putting stresses on animals higher up on the food chain, and causing an overpopulation of those lower on the food chain.

    Hydroelectricity is a good option, but it must be harnessed carefully. Small hydroelectric plants, such as the one in this article, are the way to harness hydroelectric power sustainably.

  • dude

    nna

    Did you read the article? They are re-using an existing hydro electrical dam, not making a new one. Utilizing already existing infrastructure, ecological impact should be minimal as the damage was done a century ago.

  • dude

    nna

    Did you read the article? They are re-using an existing hydro electrical dam, not making a new one. Utilizing already existing infrastructure, ecological impact should be minimal as the damage was done a century ago.

  • nna read before you comment

    nna is making a broad statement that is mostly true, but does not apply in this article’s case. The hydroelectric project in the article does not create a dam, it is using the existing natural contour of the land to it’s advantage.

  • nna read before you comment

    nna is making a broad statement that is mostly true, but does not apply in this article’s case. The hydroelectric project in the article does not create a dam, it is using the existing natural contour of the land to it’s advantage.

  • Arthur

    Not ALL hydroelectric causes the damage you speak of.

    I’ve seen setups with water wheels that have very little effect on anything.

    A dam is not required to make hydroelectric power. And smaller low-impact installations could be done without much negative effect on the environment.

  • Arthur

    Not ALL hydroelectric causes the damage you speak of.

    I’ve seen setups with water wheels that have very little effect on anything.

    A dam is not required to make hydroelectric power. And smaller low-impact installations could be done without much negative effect on the environment.

  • joebob

    So thats what, 58 watts an hour?

  • joebob

    So thats what, 58 watts an hour?

  • Desert Tripper

    It depends. A dam-based hydro installation can indeed be a disaster, especially those built during the “if it runs, dam it” philosophy of the mid-20th century, but there are other options. For instance, so-called “run of the river” plants use a dike to only divert part of the river water, pipe it downstream and run it through a turbine. Also, in high-volume rivers like the US’s Columbia, less inundation is required to generate a LOT of electricity. We have a long ways to go in finding ways to create the energy that our lavish (compared with the rest of the world) lifestyles require.

  • tim

    So would you rather a coal fired power plant open up?

  • tim

    So would you rather a coal fired power plant open up?

  • Sharon

    This article only talks about reviving an existing hydroelectric plant. Not building new and flooding new areas. Where I live, in the Northeast US, there are probably hundreds of abandoned dams left to rot. Flooding is on the rise in downstream communities as these dams disintegrate. Why not repair/maintain them and put them to work generating electricity? It makes sense to me!

  • Sharon

    This article only talks about reviving an existing hydroelectric plant. Not building new and flooding new areas. Where I live, in the Northeast US, there are probably hundreds of abandoned dams left to rot. Flooding is on the rise in downstream communities as these dams disintegrate. Why not repair/maintain them and put them to work generating electricity? It makes sense to me!

  • Colin

    Redeveloping older, smaller sites can be an effective way of adding to the baseload of any energy system. What the previous commentator fails to realize is that hydropower is a unique form of energy. It has the ability to respond both to increasing demand by increasing output as well as providing base capacity. While there are some environmental effects, the facility in the article is quite small and therefore it will not impact the landscape in such drastic ways as the previous commentator alludes to.

    It is not useful to paint all energy systems with such a wide paintbrush of environmental destruction. In these troubling times much can be done to create an integrated power system with minimal environmental effects. An example of such an approach can be seen in Ontario, Canada with its new Endangered Species Legislation that seeks to provide the most aggressive approach in the world to protect species at risk.

  • Colin

    Redeveloping older, smaller sites can be an effective way of adding to the baseload of any energy system. What the previous commentator fails to realize is that hydropower is a unique form of energy. It has the ability to respond both to increasing demand by increasing output as well as providing base capacity. While there are some environmental effects, the facility in the article is quite small and therefore it will not impact the landscape in such drastic ways as the previous commentator alludes to.

    It is not useful to paint all energy systems with such a wide paintbrush of environmental destruction. In these troubling times much can be done to create an integrated power system with minimal environmental effects. An example of such an approach can be seen in Ontario, Canada with its new Endangered Species Legislation that seeks to provide the most aggressive approach in the world to protect species at risk.

  • Blade

    And Nuclear power is the best option??!!??

  • Blade

    And Nuclear power is the best option??!!??

  • dsw

    Re: nna

    I think you’re missing the point of this article. The hydroelectric dam in this article already exists, so the damage has been done and according to your statement, cannot be undone. Why not recommission this plant and actually put this existing structure to productive use? The argument in this piece is to re-use what we already have instead of constantly building new structures.

  • dsw

    Re: nna

    I think you’re missing the point of this article. The hydroelectric dam in this article already exists, so the damage has been done and according to your statement, cannot be undone. Why not recommission this plant and actually put this existing structure to productive use? The argument in this piece is to re-use what we already have instead of constantly building new structures.

  • http://www.stantoworld.co.uk Stanto

    Seems to me that the situation here is already established; and that it is using the scenario as an example that such setups of ‘flooding’ is not necessary in all cases.

    It is perhaps closed minded to think that ‘natural’ setups acnnot be harnessed for the use of hydroelectricity rather than considering that there are flowing streams, rivers and ‘bodies’ of water that occur which can be used in this manner.

    Not all setups have to be ‘man made’ for them to be usable in this way and I believe this article is pointing that out.

  • http://www.stantoworld.co.uk Stanto

    Seems to me that the situation here is already established; and that it is using the scenario as an example that such setups of ‘flooding’ is not necessary in all cases.

    It is perhaps closed minded to think that ‘natural’ setups acnnot be harnessed for the use of hydroelectricity rather than considering that there are flowing streams, rivers and ‘bodies’ of water that occur which can be used in this manner.

    Not all setups have to be ‘man made’ for them to be usable in this way and I believe this article is pointing that out.

  • KG2V

    nna,

    It’s NOT like they are building a new dam – look at the photo – there are TONS of dams sitting around from the early industral age that are “abandoned” – basically, 100% of the water goes over the spillway (see photo above). All they really do is repair the penstocks (where the water would go to a generator) and put in modern generators – tada – low cost, NO impact (because the dam is already there) power.

    Many of these dams supplyed mechanical water wheel power 100-150-200 years ago, and were abandoned when “cheap” power became available from the power company. It’s now worth maintaining these existing sources due to the increased cost of power. In fact, I know of at least 1 dam in NY where the water just flows through the penstocks, or over the spillway, year round – the wheels are gone, there is a chunk missing out of the spillway – add some modern wheels, a bit of modern electonics to make nice reliable 60Hz, and tie it to the grid

    BTW, that is also another factor that makes using these old dams possible – modern electronics. A lot were given up because they could not produce clean power 365×24 – some times they go dry – and having a crew that sat there, having to regulate the generators to make clean 60Hz was hard, and expensive – today, modern electronics make it a “set and forget” (well, inspect 1x/week or whatever) task, just like wind or solar power

  • KG2V

    nna,

    It’s NOT like they are building a new dam – look at the photo – there are TONS of dams sitting around from the early industral age that are “abandoned” – basically, 100% of the water goes over the spillway (see photo above). All they really do is repair the penstocks (where the water would go to a generator) and put in modern generators – tada – low cost, NO impact (because the dam is already there) power.

    Many of these dams supplyed mechanical water wheel power 100-150-200 years ago, and were abandoned when “cheap” power became available from the power company. It’s now worth maintaining these existing sources due to the increased cost of power. In fact, I know of at least 1 dam in NY where the water just flows through the penstocks, or over the spillway, year round – the wheels are gone, there is a chunk missing out of the spillway – add some modern wheels, a bit of modern electonics to make nice reliable 60Hz, and tie it to the grid

    BTW, that is also another factor that makes using these old dams possible – modern electronics. A lot were given up because they could not produce clean power 365×24 – some times they go dry – and having a crew that sat there, having to regulate the generators to make clean 60Hz was hard, and expensive – today, modern electronics make it a “set and forget” (well, inspect 1x/week or whatever) task, just like wind or solar power

  • Ra

    I believe what nna says is true for most large hydroelectric dams. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case in this instance.

    By what I see, this dam will only divert a small portion of the river to the screws. This will allow the rest of the river to flow normally, allowing fish to swim right past the facility and up/down the river as they normally would.

    BUT! If they _are_ planning on diverting _all_ water through the screws, that’s a whole other story all together and something that needs much more scrutiny before even considering doing so. In that case, I’d have to agree with nna. I don’t think it would be worth it considering the ecological damage that it could cause just so a power company would claim they’re “green”.

  • Ra

    I believe what nna says is true for most large hydroelectric dams. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case in this instance.

    By what I see, this dam will only divert a small portion of the river to the screws. This will allow the rest of the river to flow normally, allowing fish to swim right past the facility and up/down the river as they normally would.

    BUT! If they _are_ planning on diverting _all_ water through the screws, that’s a whole other story all together and something that needs much more scrutiny before even considering doing so. In that case, I’d have to agree with nna. I don’t think it would be worth it considering the ecological damage that it could cause just so a power company would claim they’re “green”.

  • all for it

    AS long as this is dont right then it cant be a bad thing.. its better than poring more pultants into the air we breath..

    what ever we do we cant keep every one happy.. no one wants wind turbines on land.

    we cant keep knocking back these ideas. some thing has to give.

  • all for it

    AS long as this is dont right then it cant be a bad thing.. its better than poring more pultants into the air we breath..

    what ever we do we cant keep every one happy.. no one wants wind turbines on land.

    we cant keep knocking back these ideas. some thing has to give.

  • Phil

    to nna:

    But this one is already built, they are simply turning it on.

  • Lol

    I’d beg to differ. If sediment’s can contaminate a river to the point it’s useless for both drinking and watering.. well, northern Canada would be pretty much left without drinking water. Believe it or not, we manage to survive just fine.

    Also, I believe this plant + dam is already in place, and this is simply a matter of using something that is ALREADY THERE. Would you prefer we burn some more coal?

  • Phil

    to nna:

    But this one is already built, they are simply turning it on.

  • Lol

    I’d beg to differ. If sediment’s can contaminate a river to the point it’s useless for both drinking and watering.. well, northern Canada would be pretty much left without drinking water. Believe it or not, we manage to survive just fine.

    Also, I believe this plant + dam is already in place, and this is simply a matter of using something that is ALREADY THERE. Would you prefer we burn some more coal?

  • tomh

    nna, Yes in some case hydroelectricity can do more harm than good, but in this case it is a small scale project that is simply reinstalling the electricity generation capacity to an old dam with what will be minimal disruption to wildlife and no homes to relocate, (esspecially true knowing the UK planning system…)

    If you want to have a look at the location, then here it is on google maps:

    http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?geocode=FZ74OAMdRH7h_w&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=6.881357,14.941406&ll=54.067158,-2.002687&spn=0.000935,0.002071&t=h&z=19

    Put another way, this will not be a 3 Gorges dam!

  • tomh

    nna, Yes in some case hydroelectricity can do more harm than good, but in this case it is a small scale project that is simply reinstalling the electricity generation capacity to an old dam with what will be minimal disruption to wildlife and no homes to relocate, (esspecially true knowing the UK planning system…)

    If you want to have a look at the location, then here it is on google maps:

    http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?geocode=FZ74OAMdRH7h_w&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=6.881357,14.941406&ll=54.067158,-2.002687&spn=0.000935,0.002071&t=h&z=19

    Put another way, this will not be a 3 Gorges dam!

  • John Watts

    Wow, clean energy! I love it.

    Jiff

    http://www.online-anonymity.kr.tc

  • John Watts

    Wow, clean energy! I love it.

    Jiff

    http://www.online-anonymity.kr.tc

  • Mark

    Do not forget the very bad influence of methane gases. All of the dead plants & trees will rot and generate huge amounts of methane gasses. And methane is much more worse for the environment than C02.

  • Mark

    Do not forget the very bad influence of methane gases. All of the dead plants & trees will rot and generate huge amounts of methane gasses. And methane is much more worse for the environment than C02.

  • http://www.un-pn.eu Chris

    This is within the Yorkshire Dales which is a National Park. There are strict laws about what you can do there.

    To the right in the picture you can see a natural weir. So they’re only harnessing nature, not re-engineering the landscape.

    I agree that hydro electric has a bad history, mostly driven by World Bank loans. But the scale of this is much smaller and IMO more appropriate.

  • http://www.un-pn.eu Chris

    This is within the Yorkshire Dales which is a National Park. There are strict laws about what you can do there.

    To the right in the picture you can see a natural weir. So they’re only harnessing nature, not re-engineering the landscape.

    I agree that hydro electric has a bad history, mostly driven by World Bank loans. But the scale of this is much smaller and IMO more appropriate.

  • Woody Sabran

    OMG hyrdroelectric power is gonna kill the world!

    Seriously though could you be anymore melodramatic?! Linton Falls hydroelectric plant will operate using a free running river, there is no dam in this scenario, therefore no backlog of water and no flooding. I agree that where hydroelectric plants require massive flooding (such as Three Gorges Dam) this is not a viable application of the technology. IMO it’s best used when the natural flow of the river is able to generate sufficient amounts of power on it’s own. This way we can harness the power of gravity without having too much of impact on habitats etc. I don’t think it should be ruled out completely as you suggest.

  • Woody Sabran

    OMG hyrdroelectric power is gonna kill the world!

    Seriously though could you be anymore melodramatic?! Linton Falls hydroelectric plant will operate using a free running river, there is no dam in this scenario, therefore no backlog of water and no flooding. I agree that where hydroelectric plants require massive flooding (such as Three Gorges Dam) this is not a viable application of the technology. IMO it’s best used when the natural flow of the river is able to generate sufficient amounts of power on it’s own. This way we can harness the power of gravity without having too much of impact on habitats etc. I don’t think it should be ruled out completely as you suggest.

  • tulanian

    Yeah, this picture of the plant looks awful. Disastrous. I think I can see those sheep in the background crying.

  • tulanian

    Yeah, this picture of the plant looks awful. Disastrous. I think I can see those sheep in the background crying.

  • Pete Bassett

    nna : I think you are missing the point. This doesn’t require flooding a valley, it just sits in a river.

    It’s more like a water wheel than a dam.

  • Pete Bassett

    nna : I think you are missing the point. This doesn’t require flooding a valley, it just sits in a river.

    It’s more like a water wheel than a dam.

  • Desert Tripper

    It depends. A dam-based hydro installation can indeed be a disaster, especially those built during the “if it runs, dam it” philosophy of the mid-20th century, but there are other options. For instance, so-called “run of the river” plants use a dike to only divert part of the river water, pipe it downstream and run it through a turbine. Also, in high-volume rivers like the US’s Columbia, less inundation is required to generate a LOT of electricity. We have a long ways to go in finding ways to create the energy that our lavish (compared with the rest of the world) lifestyles require.

  • nna

    Hydroelectric power is an ecological disaster. It ruins enormous parts of the terrain by flooding them. Al plants and trees die, and all animals are forced to leave (and usually end up dying because they have nowhere to go). People are forced to leave too. These valleys with beautiful scenerios get destroyed for a few kilowatts. Sediments determine that the hydroelectric plants usually cannot operate for more than 60 years (but the terrain remains destroyed nonetheless). In some cases sediments contaminate the water and it ends up being useless for both drinking and watering. All things considered, hydroelectricity is not an option.

  • nna

    Hydroelectric power is an ecological disaster. It ruins enormous parts of the terrain by flooding them. Al plants and trees die, and all animals are forced to leave (and usually end up dying because they have nowhere to go). People are forced to leave too. These valleys with beautiful scenerios get destroyed for a few kilowatts. Sediments determine that the hydroelectric plants usually cannot operate for more than 60 years (but the terrain remains destroyed nonetheless). In some cases sediments contaminate the water and it ends up being useless for both drinking and watering. All things considered, hydroelectricity is not an option.

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