A new low head hydro project is being built 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 Ltd, a subsidiary of Barn Energy, to build and operate the scheme. When open later this year (2016), it will generate enough electricity to power 800 homes and will be Yorkshire’s largest-ever low head hydro-electric project.
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 of last year (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 larger Kirkthorpe scheme is being developed on land owned by Wakefield Council and it will abstract water from the Canal & River Trust’s Aire & Calder Navigation. As part of the consenting process, the development team worked closely with Wakefield Council, the Environment Agency, the Canal & River Trust as well as local angling groups and are continuing to do so during construction.
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, many of whom working for companies based in Yorkshire and the north of England. Yorkshire’s ANF Consulting and JNP Group designed the project whilst the Eric Wright Group is the main civil engineering contractor (all were also responsible for the timely delivery of the Thrybergh scheme). Over 85% of the cost of the Kirkthorpe project is capital expenditure spent in the region’s economy.
Mark Simon, Chief Executive of Barn Energy and Yorkshire Hydropower Ltd 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.
“We wish to build our next hydro scheme at the Brotherton Weir on the River Aire near Knottingley and close to the landmark Ferrybridge coal-fired power station; getting it built is however dependent on our efforts to secure grant or low-cost finance for the £6.5m project.”