Yorkshire leading the way with hydropower

A new low head hydro project will open later this year on the River Calder at Kirkthorpe, four miles east of Wakefield in West Yorkshire. Work on the project has started after Wakefield Council granted permission to Kirkthorpe Hydropower, a subsidiary of Barn Energy, to build and operate the scheme.  

The £5.3m hydropower scheme will use the flow of the River Calder to power a single 500kW axial turbine that will generate around 2.3million units of carbon-free electricity per year, equivalent to the consumption of 800 households.   It will run 24/7, 10-11 months of the year, for at least the next 100 years.  Salmon, eels and other migratory fish will be able to pass the hydro scheme’s weir safely, protected by a large custom-designed inlet screen.

The Kirkthorpe project is Barn Energy’s second project in Yorkshire.  Its first, which is situated on the River Don at Thrybergh near Rotherham, entered service in October 2015 and is generating electricity at full capacity.  In addition, Thrybergh’s fish passage has resulted in Atlantic salmon being seen upstream at Aldwarke Weir on the eastern edge of Rotherham for the first time in 150 years. 

The 500kW Kirkthorpe facility will uses a single Kaplan axial turbine to extract power from the River Calder.  The stable ‘baseload’ electricity that is generated represents the lowest cost over the long-term (expect to be still generating in 2115) and underpins the security of supply of electricity in the UK. It is the longest-term source of renewable electricity, and the efficiency of the turbines means it produces a higher energy output per kW of capacity than solar PV or wind technology.

Cllr Denise Jeffery, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and Skills, said: “The Kirkthorpe scheme will help to massively reduce carbon emissions in the Wakefield district. By ensuring that more renewable energy is available we can help protect the local environment and provide reliable, clean energy for future generations.”

More than 100 people are working on the Kirkthorpe project, which was designed by  Yorkshire’s ANF Consulting and JNP Group designed the project and is being built by the civils engineers, the Eric Wright Group.

Mark Simon, Chief Executive of Barn Energy and Yorkshire Hydropower, said: “Yorkshire is leading the way with low-head hydro power in this country, and helping to drive a new wave of investment into the country’s infrastructure.  Thrybergh and now Kirkthorpe, and the other river hydro schemes that we hope will follow, offer baseload electricity and deliver clean energy highly efficiently into the local grid.  They are very long-term sources of clean electricity.  With the right tariff structure and finance in place, we can build more and larger hydro projects across the North of England, making it a true ‘Northern Powerhouse’.