The story so far

2008 – Greenfield & Grasscroft  Residents Association started to think about generating renewable energy in Saddleworth harnessing water power.
  •  Showing of  the film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ in Delph. Discussion after the film sparked wider interest.
  • A series of meetings of local enthusiasts,  later called the steering group, explored options of an Archimedean screw on the river Tame.
  • This proved unlikely to be viable as there is no weir of sufficient height.

2010 –

  • The option of a turbine on the compensation flow from Dove Stone reservoir was researched. This is an existing legal requirement that United Utilities ensures that a constant flow of water is released into the river to supply industry downstream.

Compensation water

  • United Utilities agreed to a community turbine on the reservoir outflow.
  • A £243,000 EU grant under the Rural Carbon Challenge fund was offered; subject to raising further funding ourselves.


2011 – The grant was reviewed under government austerity measures.


Summer 2011- The grant was reoffered reduced by only 8%


December 2011 –Share offer Launch


April 2012 – Share offer closed having raised almost £150,000.


June 2012 –

  • H2ope left the project. This was because they felt they lacked sufficient expertise in high head turbines required at Dove Stone.

Summer 2012 –

  • We urgently needed to find a new contract partner. This proved to be a lengthy process as we had to get tenders from several potential partners within EU contract law.


October 2012 -

  • In October we selected Renewables First as our new partners.
  • We made preliminary enquires with the Environment Agency about an abstraction licence.
  • A new feasibility report produced by Renewables First showed us a better way to intercept the compensation flow giving us access to the full pressure of the reservoir water. This would almost double the power output with a similar rise in our potential revenue generation.


November 2012-

  • We had our first formal meeting with United Utilities to discuss the siting of the turbine. Renewables First's initial proposal was to house the turbine in a structure over the existing reservoir. United Utilities and the directors rejected this solution because of turbulence in the basin at time of severe overflow. United Utilities suggested we investigate a possible site inside the reservoir pump house.


December  2012 –

  • An investigation of the pump house was started.


February 2013 –

  • The pump house was finally rejected because of limited space and restricted access arrangements.
  • A new site was found for the turbine in a small building in front and to the right of the pump house.


March 2013 -

  • Technical agreement was obtained with United Utilities for this new site.


April 2013 -

  • A ‘heads of agreement’ with United Utilities was put in hand. A legal agreement is needed before ordering a turbine, which is a major capital spend.
  • Local Authority planning approval sought.
  • An abstraction licence will probably not have been required from the Environment Agency, but we expected them to rule on whether any provision for protection of fish is required.


May 2013 –

  • A meeting was held with United Utilities on 3 May to sign off of the technical design and  ‘heads of agreement’ prior to ordering the turbine. The turbine was ordered. Ecowave, a British supplier was used.
June 2013 –
  • United Utilities specified we must appoint a panel engineer to confirm safety of our plans before final approval could be given.


July 2013 –


August 2013
  •  Heads of agreement with UU  agreed. This covers the need for a decommissioning bond. Drafting of full lease put into train. Bridging finances put in hand with Key Fund.
December 2013 
  • Construction started with excavation of the turbine chamber and of the sump, for water to run into
  •  after passing through the turbine. 
    The chamber for the turbine is below ground level and also the water table, so the building is lined with a waterproof membrane.

February 2014 
  •  The output connection was made to the stilling pool and thus to the river .
March 2014

  • The pipework connections were engineered to divert the existing outflow of water through the turbine house.

  •  The turbine was installed.

      • Costs had escalated, so a second share offer was made raising a further £80,000.  This resulted in the capital invested by shareholders matching the grant from DEFRA.
      April 2014

      •  The cross piece was put in place. Fortunately there had been quite a lot of rain
        so that th
        e o
        verflow from the reservoir more than made up for the loss of compensation water during the connection process.
          May 2014

          The transformer was installed for the connection to the National Grid.

          All external work was completed and commissioning started.

          June -August 2014
          • A phone line was installed and a broadband connection was made to facilitate remote control and monitoring + email reception of warnings of problems.
          • Team of volunteers trained to deal with the everyday running.
          • Commissioning and testing of the system to ensure no loss of compensation water to United Utilities.
          • United Utilities want the flow of compensation water to be above the legal minimum so output is 43KW: 10% more than originally expected.
          • Turbine started up for normal production.
          September 2014
          • Official public switch-on by Adrian Ramsay, Chief Executive of The Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth.
          Adrian Ramsay, the Mayor of Oldham, Cllr Fida Hussain, the Mayoress,
          Bill Edwards SCh chairman, and pupils from Friezland School
          Autumn 2014
          • With a few glitches, 43 kW (higher than expected) regular production is maintained.
          • First payments from OPUS arrive
          • Accreditation with OFGEM proves to be more challenging than expected
          • Thorough Review of the project started with the aim of providing a "Lessons Learnt" that we can share with other groups working on similar enterprises.
          • Year 10 pupils from Saddleworth School visit the site to engage in activities about energy generation for GCSE physics.
          January 2015
          Visit from Oldham Youth Council under Generation Oldham scheme
           February 2015
            Winners of the

            Community Award of  NW Branch of The Institution of Civil Engineers Awards 2015.

            Craig Taylor (Ecowave), Phil Davis (Renewables First), Richard Rider (Renewables First)
            Bill Edwards ( Chairman Saddleworth Community Hydro) and Peter Gill ( United Utilities) still celebrating the next morning.

          March - August 2015
          • Talks given to local groups
          • OFGEM accreditation final gained in August
          • Two Articles published in Clean Slate, the journal of The Centre for Alternative Technology
          • Guest Blog published on website of Institution of Civil Engineers
          September 2015

          Community England Awards, Oxford 5 September 2015

          showcased and celebrated the communities, projects and individuals that are at the forefront of the community energy revolution.
          Saddleworth Community Hydro was presented with the Community Energy Collaboration Award by Jonathan Hazeldine, Head of Marks& Spencer Energy. This recognises a ground breaking venture in terms of an association between a small community group and United Utilities who own the reservoir.

          • Presentation  to Power Generation Seminar of Institute of Diesel and Gas Turbine Engineers

          November 2015

          The night of November 13th 2015 saw torrential rain in Saddleworth such that the reservoir, which had been pretty low for most of the autumn, filled up rapidly. It overflowed with such vigour that the water in the stilling basin became extremely turbulent.

          The turbine went offline and while our maintenance team was trying to figure things out, the turbine room flooded to the depth of a couple of inches.

          Getting us up and running again took over two weeks, requiring help from Ecowave, the suppliers, and much persistence from our team.

          Faults eventually diagnosed included

          • a blown fuse in the stilling basin sensor circuit

          • a faulty export power meter.

          • burnt out relays in the hydraulics which control the balance of water going through the turbine and the bypass outlet.

          We are still not at all sure as to whether these things were all triggered by the flood or were coincidental.

          Similar torrential rain on Boxing Day did not affect generation and the turbine turned on merrily. A wet winter gave plenty of opportunities for maximum generation.

          Spring 2016

          Our maintenance team had more challenges to deal with: loss of connection to the grid caused by a failure on the part of Electricity North-West, persistent tripping of a relay and failure of the control system CPU. All these difficulties were resolved and we learnt more and more about the workings.

          We gave a number of presentations: Oldham Probus, Chadderton & Failsworth Rotary, Stockport U3A, Saddleworth Civic Trust.

          We also had visits from the University of Oxford Alumni and Love Lydgate.

          Autumn 2016

          Visit from North Sweden Development Agency

          We were pleased to host a Swedish group looking into funding methods for community enterprises.

          Cardinal Newman College students paid us a visit and saw how physics calculations are essential tools for engineers.