The weir at Otterspool was built by Jesse Howard of Stockport, a local mill owner who planned a cotton mill on the river in the 19th century. The mill here was never built but there are many similar weirs marking the sites of old mills on the Goyt and Etherow rivers.
The story of how our new community owned hydro scheme came to be built starts a few miles upstream in a town called New Mills. It was here in 2007 that a ground breaking project was launched that would see the countries first community owned Archimedes Screw built. In many ways this was a pilot project, although the technology behind Archimedes screws was first discovered in ancient Greek times, so the principle has certainly been well tried and tested!
New Mills Torrs Hydro is now well established and has been operating successfully since 2008. Like Stockport Hydro it is managed by a committed group of volunteers and has become a major landmark in New Mills and an integral part of the community.
It was always known that the New Mills scheme was a risky pilot project but thankfully it has turned out to be a great success. It has proved both the technology and the community owned structure can work. Since then many other similar schemes have been developed around the country, including our own site in Stockport. Planning for the Otterspool scheme began in 2009; the necessary consents were obtained including planning permission and an abstraction licence from the Environment Agency (permission to divert the water) and construction was complete by May 2012. Our system started generating in October 2012 and by March 2013, we had produced 100,000 units (kWh). On the 24th Nov 2017 we passed the significant milestone of 1’000’000 kWh of electricity produced. Over this time we have also invested in a significant upgrade to the control systems which has enabled us to maximise the plants efficiency and automate some of its functions.
Many lessons have been learnt thanks to the pioneering work of the people and volunteers who set up and now run the New Mills scheme. The design of Stockport Hydro has taken full advantage of all this knowledge and we have built a much more advanced system. This allows us to maximise the electrical output of the screws over a very wide range of river levels. Whilst at the same time we have retained all the benefits of the Archimedes Screw design such as being low impact, durable and fish friendly. This video shows the Environment Agency conducting fish and debris tests on an operational Archimedes Screw in Devon.