Linda McAvan, the Labour MEP for the Yorkshire & Humber region has visited Barn Energy’s Thrybergh project, a hydroelectric power plant on the River Don. Opened in October last year (2015) by John Healey MP, Thrybergh is the largest low-head river hydro plant ever to be built in Yorkshire and the largest plant commissioned in the UK in the last three years. Since October, it has been running at near maximum levels, generating renewable electricity from the flow of the River Don for local homes and businesses.
Located at Thrybergh Weir on the River Don, near the village of Kilnhurst and five miles north-east of Rotherham, the hydropower scheme is also helping to return atlantic salmon to the River Don following an absence of around 150 years. In December, salmon were seen at Aldwarke weir on the eastern edge of Rotherham.
With her constituency office situated located within 5 miles of Thrybergh Weir, Linda McAvan took the opportunity to see the scheme in operation, meet Barn Energy’s Chief Executive, Mark Simon and find out more about the potential for similar projects to be built in the Yorkshire and Humber region. Barn Energy has firm plans for hydroelectric schemes at Kirkthorpe on the River Calder near Wakefield and at Knottingley on the River Aire and could build more in the region (on the River Trent and River Ouse) if it is able to raise the finance and secure the necessary planning consents.
Mark Simon, Barn Energy’s Chief Executive said: “I was very pleased to show Thrybergh to Linda McAvan as it’s an exemplar of river hydroelectric power in this country. It’s delivering reliable, efficient renewable energy and it will be running well into the next century. We have plans for more projects in the region, working in partnership with the Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency and local councils. We are investing long-term in the region’s infrastructure and are creating local jobs, especially during construction. We could do more if the Government changed its attitude to low-head hydropower in this country; we are concerned that, despite cross-party political support for hydropower, ministers are ignoring the long-term advantages that hydropower offers.”
Linda McAvan MEP said: “I was delighted to visit Thrybergh and see how the scheme is generating electricity whilst safeguarding the local environment and the River’s marine life. I was impressed and I hope that we can see more projects built on rivers in Yorkshire and Humberside over the next few years. EU renewables targets have helped drive investment in hydropower which can play a critical role in our region’s energy infrastructure. We need long-term investment in the region’s energy infrastructure and hydropower has a part to play. Barn Energy has done a great job at Thrybergh.”
As part of the project, Barn Energy has built a fish and eel passage to enable salmon and trout to swim upstream in the direction of Sheffield and help the River’s eel and elver populations recover. With the passage in place, it is hoped that salmon will eventually return to Sheffield to spawn, something which has not been seen for nearly 150 years given the past pollution of the River Don and the obstacle that weirs are to migrating salmon, trout and other coarse fish.