The biggest community hydro scheme in England has begun powering homes and offices near Lancaster.
A 100kW hydro-electric turbine, at Forge Weir in Halton, arrived from the Czech Republic last month and started generating electricity on Friday December 12.
The 30m long installation on the Halton side of the river Lune has been under construction for almost a year.
Work is still to be done to the building, which will be finished in natural stone, with a slate roof and timber clad entrance area.
The £1.6m project will also feature interactive educational facilities, and schools are expected to start visiting the site in the spring.
The electricity generated will power homes at the nearby Lancaster Cohousing development, as well as businesses at Halton Mill and homes in the surrounding area via the National Grid.
Kevin Frea, who is a director of Halton Lune Hydro, alongside Brian Jefferson, John Blowes, and Alan Denham, said that the aim was to be able to sell electricity generated by a second 100kW turbine to households in Halton by next December.
When both turbines are up and running, it is expected that there will be enough energy to power 300 homes, roughly one third of the total number of homes in the Halton parish area.
He said that fixed income prices for energy produced by the turbine would only increase with inflation.
Brian Jefferson said: “This is the only scheme of its kind in England.
“Lots of people are coming to talk to us about it, and we’ve advised at least five other hydro schemes. We’re really happy with where we are.”
John Blowes said that all of the profits from the scheme would go into the parish of Halton-with-Aughton and surrounding areas via the Halton Lune Trust that receives all profits from the hydro company.
The community will apply to the Trust for grants for projects and other worthy causes. Halton Lune Trust, which was set up a year ago, is made up of four directors - Peter Lambson, John Urry, Chris Baxter and Ron Hepworth, who will decide where grants are allocated.
The scheme, which is owned and controlled by shareholders, a third of which live in the Halton area, will have cost a total of £1.64m on completion, with more than £320,000 having being spent on environmental aspects. John said that the Environment Agency had asked for fish research to take place, and the fish pass and resting pool is to the latest Best European Practice in their construction.
There is even a narrow pass for eels, which are attracted to it by a moss-like substance at the entrance, and are then gently and safely “piped” in their target direction upriver.
John said: “There will be an underwater camera connected to an LCD screen on the side of the building showing fish going through the fish pass, the flow of the river, and the types of fish that are passing.
The hydro area will be open to the public again during the spring with access again via the wooden steps. There is also to be new river access platform for canoeists to get upstream of the weir.
Dan Bond, Environment Agency environment manager, said: “The Environment Agency supports the development of sustainable hydropower schemes, as renewable energy is important to the long-term protection of the environment.
“Hydropower schemes can generate green energy and it’s is our role to ensure these schemes include appropriate measures to protect the local environment, including routes up river for fish and other wildlife.”