On 17 October a group of Oxford University master’s students visited Sandford Hydro as part of their Energy Systems course. The group received a tour from Harry Orchard, our Operations and Maintenance Assistant, and were shown the inner workings of the electric hydro plant. They went inside the control room where it’s possible to see the overview of the turbines, including which are currently turning, how much power they’re generating and whether the trash screens (which prevent rubbish entering the hydro) need clearing.
They were also shown the fish pass; a system specially designed to encourage all the species in the river to travel upstream for the first time in 400 years! The hydro site has also been through rigorous ecosystem surveys to ensure it has minimal impact on the local wildlife, such as trees, shrubs, birds, bats and otters. It is also consistently being assessed and checked to ensure this high standard is maintained.
The students were given an overview of the history of the Sandford Hydro project, including how the idea was originally developed in the local community. Then it was the culmination of two community share offers that together raised the £1.4m needed for the new generator. The three 14-metre long, 22-tonne Archimedes screws were lifted into place in May 2017 and then in August 2018 the plant was commissioned, just in time for the first rain of autumn to arrive and begin generating energy.
Now, Sandford Hydro is fully operational with the capacity to produce 1.6 GWh of clean electricity a year which is enough to power 450 homes and save two tonnes of CO2 a day. This October has been particularly good for generation at Sandford, with generated energy exceeding our expectations. The hydro has generated over 130,000 kWh of energy this month – enough to make over 4 million slices of toast!
Our visitors will be able to use their trip to Sandford Hydro as a great example of community energy in action and as inspiration for what innovative renewable energy solutions can be achieved. Transitioning to a cleaner energy system requires thinking across traditional disciplinary boundaries to ensure communities are at the heart of future energy systems.