On 7th January we held a public meeting to launch our Community Interest Company.
- Osney Lock, Oxford
- Technical Talk Hydro
- Formation of C.I.C.
- Central Club ?
- Architects Sketches
- Open discussion followed by some very useful networking
1) Introduction from Tony Cowling who explained the group’s vision’ to establish an eco-education centre promoting responsible resource use’ and ambitions to harness the power of the river Thames for a renewable energy hydro-scheme.
The input of volunteers in the following areas was mentioned: Steering Group, Radio & publicity, Website, Fundraising team (securing grants) and Newsletter.
On the topic of community hydro, a recent study indicates that many of such schemes across the country are under performing for a variety of reasons. We should ensure optimal efficiency of the turbines used by considering these challenges prior to construction. The possibility of a voluntary community fish pass project on view island was also mentioned.
2) We then viewed a video made by Oxford Brookes students about the Osney Lock hydro scheme. Followed by our Guest speaker Saskya Huggins from Osney Lock Hydro (Oxford) talk entitled: “People Generated Power”. Osney Lock is the first community owned hydro on the Thames, it took 14 years to manifest. When the environment agency announced works to the weir in 2012 this kick started development. A reverse Archimedes screw was installed at the site in West Oxford, plus a fish pass.
Saskya spoke about the strength of collective community action working to achieve a common objective. Local flooding experiences made the impact of climate change apparent to residents and there are currently a few organisations in Oxford working to reduce the city’s carbon footprint; approaches include ‘Powering up’ (generating energy) and ‘Powering down’ (using less energy). Many investors were attracted by the environmental benefits of a renewable power supply. As the hydro scheme is community-based, most investors live locally to the project or have a previous connection with the area. It is community run with active involvement from residents. Parallel to the hydro is the ‘River Bank Project’ in Osney that exists to encourage social engagement and awareness of energy use. (The Powering Down initiative)
3) Next speaker: Brendan Barrow (E-Water Power), Technical adviser. He emphasised that funding is important to facilitate various surveys, implement fish pass, as well as to prepare, construct and maintain the proposed hydro scheme. He considers that 2 Archimedes screw turbines (50kw total output) would be suitable for the Caversham weir site. He explains the two factors that determine the amount of power from water-based source are the head (height) and flow. He says the site is suited to a greater use of power from the flow although there is less head on site.
4) Tony speaks again about the formation of TRSC Community Interest Company. This was setup with assistance from Shoosmiths LLP. Some questions were raised about whether membership should be open and if payment is necessary. Tanya proposed free membership for first year – this was agreed by those present. It was suggested to use a survey to determine interest in membership from public. There may also be issues of chorate dependency in attendance of meetings, our constitution is available online to members. Voting is according to our own constitution.
Donald Chambers, a director of CIC was introduced. He is a professional urban planner who has undertaken many projects in the Middle East and looks forward to involvement in a local project. The other initial director apart from Tony is John Brunnen who is a senior partner in an accountancy practice.
5) Tony talks about Central Club, a derelict community centre building in Reading town centre. We have submitted an application in collaboration with other groups for a five storey development on the site. This includes multi-purpose ‘transition homes’ for released prisoners etc. It would be an ‘enabling development’ of affordable housing. Could help to sustain the centre due to rent received for residential accommodation. Possible sources of funding include charitable grants and bank loans.
6) Ian Guiliani presented some architects sketches for the sustainability centre building. There are five site that have been identified as possibilities, including Caversham Lock Island and View Island. We acknowledged that ‘A sustainability centre has to be sustainable’. Some issues arising include; access to Lock Island (Environment Agency), impact of building on View Island (councils preferred site) and consideration of Hills Meadow as a possible site. Proximity to hydro scheme is preferred.
7) Open discussion
A Thames Water employee expressed interest in the hyrdo scheme but was bored by other proposals.
Questions were raised about the Feed In Tariff from government and it’s longevity.
It was suggested that community shares would be the best way to fund the hydro-scheme.
One person dismissed the entire project as ‘Pie in the Sky’
Another expressed concerns about the loss of the mural that adorns the external wall of Central Club
Lisa suggests collaboration with similar centres elsewhere (such as Hampshire or CAT in N. Wales)
An engineer made some suggestion of alternative sites for the hydro (such as Mill Island)
Saskya mentioned that the noise of turbines can be a problem in residential areas.