The team behind ambitious plans to build a £650,000 mini-hydro power scheme in Tutbury has revealed that it is scrapping the idea due to delays and reductions in Government grants.
Tutbury Ecopower (TEP) and its not-for-profit Co-op company Dove Valley Eco Power Ltd, a local community group, had originally promised to create its flagship £650,000 hydro-electric generator at Mill Fleam, Tutbury.
It was to generate electricity using the nearby weir which was then to be sold to electricity firms for the benefit of the community.
It was originally to be built by 2011 but it has been revealed that the scheme will now never see the light of day.
Hydroelectric power uses moving water to generate electricity.
TEP chairman Philip Norris said: "TEP started in 2008 when Steve Rhodes, who lived next to the Mill Fleam, had the vision to restore the dilapidated Mill Fleam to once again become a community amenity for fishing, attractive walks and picnic areas.
"To make this a sustainable project, he and some friends came up with the idea of generating electricity at the weir next to the playing field roundabout using hydro power. Any surplus funds generated after funding and running costs would then be used to benefit the local community."
After gaining local support and identifying funding, the design of a 16kW Archimedean screw generator began. This is a turbine machine historically used for transferring water from a low-lying body of water into irrigation ditches.
Mr Norris said: "Soon after in 2009/10, it was realised that continuing maintenance costs of keeping water flowing down the Mill Fleam and through the hydro-generator would make the scheme unviable."
However, the TEP team, with support from Trent and Dove Housing Association, East Staffordshire Borough Council, Co-op UK and regional Eco support groups, identified a site owned by the Duchy of Lancaster on the side of the weir and fish-pass on the River Dove about 1km west of the original site for a much larger 80kW 2-Archimedean Screw generator.
A business case, with additional material from nearby Nestle, in Hatton, was developed over the next couple of years. This proved the project could generate funds up to about £60,000 a year from a £650,000 project cost for the benefit of the local community. It would be funded by selling the electricity to the District Network Operator and receiving government grants for every kW-hour generated in this way known as the Feed in Tariffs (FITs).
However, it was revealed the team was on a tight deadline. Mr Norris said: "The project capital cost was to be raised by a mixture of selling shares, grant funding and loans. At this time, the relatively generous government grant level of FITs was being reduced year-on-year for schemes not already in operation. Consequently, there was pressure on the TEP team to get this scheme into operation by 2014 for optimum viability into the future."
Additionally, in 2013, the TEP team lost two of its founding members, chairman Steve Rhodes and deputy chairman Gary Rowe, within one month of each other when they moved away from the area.
Mr Norris then took over the chairmanship and Mandy Liversage stepped up to join the senior team. Mandy, a key technical expert, then moved away in December that year.
During this negotiations with the prospective landlord and their agents were taking place, making the business model less viable as time went on.
Mr Norris said: "While lease terms were eventually agreed in principle, the delay also meant that the amount of Government Eco-grant in the form of FiTs had continued to reduce to the point where it was no longer sensible to continue with this business model. Worse, the continuing delay in making progress had the effect of eroding active support in the community with more team members either moving away or losing interest."
Mr Norris and fellow director, Mark Llewellyn, after trying to find public funding elsewhere, finally admitted defeat in 2016 and started the process of closing Dove Valley Eco Power Ltd (DVEP), a Provident Industrial Company (a Co-op) behind TEP and returning remaining development funding returned.