Originally posted on 20 November 2009
Many people have heard horror stories about wind turbines killing birds, rain forest destruction linked to biofuels and valley ecology ruined when dams are built to flood them. Yet renewable energy projects can be designed and built in ways that are in balance with the existing environment. That is the approach that Sheffield Renewables takes in developing our schemes.
When the waterwheel at Kelham Island was originally built they ran the river dry, with no concern for the wildlife that required water to live. In fact the fish left dying on the river bed would be collected and sold for extra income. Clearly nowadays this would be unacceptable and we need to understand the consequences of developing our scheme on the local ecology before beginning the build.
The Kelham Island hydro partnership, which we are part of along with Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust and Sheffield City Council, has commissioned an ecological survey of both the river and the goit serving the water wheel. The study will help us to identify how much water we can reasonably divert from the River Don, while avoiding a significant impact on the river environment. It will also help to identify any mitigation measures we may need to employ. Since the goit has not had a regular high flow of water through it for some time, the survey will also look at the effect that higher flows have on wildlife in the goits themselves.
Results will be available in early 2010 and will feed into our application for an abstraction license from the Environment Agency. The abstraction license will allow us to divert water from the River Don down the goit, through a new waterwheel and return it to the River Don.