Hydro-power finds its way home!

1 Aug

Hydro-power is power derived from the energy of falling water and running water, which may be harnessed for useful purposes. Since ancient times, hydro-power has been used for irrigation and the operation of various mechanical devices, such as watermills, sawmills textile mills, dock cranes, domestic lifts, and power houses.

This year we will see hydro-power make a return to one of the UK’s grand houses, which almost 140 years ago established the use of water to provide electricity.

The Cragside mansion in North-East England will see a modern adaptation of the historic power generating device installed into the grounds. The Archimedes screw will harness the power of a stream inside the grounds to Cragside mansion to provide lighting. All the way back in 1878 this house became the first in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity…impressive stuff!

The Archimedes screw will produce enough energy to light 350 bulbs in the house. It will generate about 12kw of electricity over a year which is enough to provide the property with around 10% of its electricity. The new system will not be enough to power its computers, freezers or heaters.

Water from one of the five lakes at Cragside will flow through the Archimedes screw and into the stream below. As the water passes down through the spiral blades, the equipment uses its energy to turn the screw. The energy is then converted into electricity by a generator.

Cragside is now safely in the hands of the National Trust who are responsible for conversing the historic house and its gardens. Andrew Sawyer, the Trust’s property curator at Cragside, said:

“It is a very visual demonstration of the way hydropower works, an almost sculptural sight in the landscape.

“Hydroelectricity is the world’s most widely used form of renewable energy, so we are looking forward to sharing this very special part of its heritage.”

The National Trust has already replaced all 350 light bulbs in Cragside with LED bulbs, whose low electricity consumption improves the scheme’s power-saving potential. They are dedicated to reduce their energy usage by an impressive 20%, halving fossil fuel consumption, and generating 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. This will enable it to cut its energy costs by more than £4m annually, releasing more money for conservation.

Sarah Pemberton, regional head of conservation for the Trust, said:

“The technology is easy to maintain due to the simple mechanics, and because it works at low speed, it’s possible for fish to pass through the turbine unharmed.”

So this really is a win-win all-round. A big well done to the National Trust who are also looking to provide clean energy at 43 more of its historic properties.

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