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Renewable energy from restored watermills is the essence of ‘Progressive Heritage’. Needless to say I was excited to find that this weekend is the National Mills Weekend (click here for details).  Of the watermills participating those generating electricity for the national grid rather than for nostalgia (such as flour creation – although a bag does make a useful souvenir) is surprisingly limited.




To save your clicking through the list of links, here are the ones I found contributing to the nation’s power:

Brampton Watermill,Appleby

Heron Watermill, Beetham

Town Mill, Lyme Regis

Merton Abbey Mills Waterwheel, London

The Mill on the Green, Ludlow

Clapton Watermill, Crewkerne

Howsham Mill, Malton, Yorkshire – this is my personal favourite as the mill was designed by the architect John Carr in 1755 and the Renewable Heritage Trust has saved this building and produces 30 kW of electricity. For live updates on the power produced visit their web-site here.

Looking further into the matter it is a struggle to find what one would hope: a list of all watermills across England and Wales actively producing electricity to the National Grid. If you can point me in the right direction please do.

In fact in recent years the anticipation of the government reported expectation of hydropower from old mills and wiers generating a potential 10,000GWh per year (The Guardian 16.11.08) seems to have been left unsubstantiated.

Comprehensive lists and up-to-date assessments aside, community groups have been quietly getting on with the challenging task of nurturing apparently expired buildings back to life to help in the struggle to meet Britain’s renewable energy target of creating 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

The Centre for Alternative Technology highlights, ‘the economies of scale for hydro electricity make a community scheme a viable means of installation’. (Click here for the full web-page). South Somerset District Council took a commendable ‘bigger picture’ view and initiated the South Somerset Hydropower Group in 2001.

The group brought 12 watermill owners together to share knowledge and resources to attract partial funding to develop the mills for hydropower. The group was granted an Ashden Award in 2005 to assist further development – a case study of the group can be accessed here. It is clear in the case study that broader public interest in hydro power as a renewable technology is mutually positive for the re-use and maintenance of the watermill heritage buildings.

Easily accessible information on case studies of the re-use of watermills for hydro electricity production is limited. It would be fantastic if case studies and knowledge could be shared more widely. An easy way to do this is to upload files to the UK Green Building Council’s Pinpoint information sharing platform. Click here for a link to the resource.  Refer also to my earlier post on Pinpoint – here.