New lease of life for Yorkshire waterways

Kirkthorpe and Knottingley were recently featured in the latest copy of International 'Water Power & Dam Construction' magazine. Find the Article below:

Yorkshire is leading the way with low head hydropower development in England, helping to drive a new wave of investment into the country’s infrastructure. Local company Yorkshire Hydropower, which has recently finished constructing the Kirkthorpe hydropower scheme on the River Calder, has been shortlisted for a construction industry award in recognition of its efforts.

Low head hydropower construction is breathing new life into UK navigational weirs, providing industrial regeneration and vital environmental improvement of waterway assets that are often in dire need. The canals of Yorkshire are part of the network of inland waterways in England and Wales that are steeped in history, evolving from their use for irrigation and transport through becoming the focus of the Industrial Revolution, to modern day recreational boating. Kirkthorpe Weir is the largest weir on the Aire and Calder Navigation system in Yorkshire. Builtin 1829 it is a Grade II listed structure which provides a stable navigation level for the Wakefield branch of the Aire and Calder. And now Yorkshire Hydropower, a subsidiary of renewable energy company Barn Energy, has successfully added a hydropower component that aids the stability of the upstream water level, provides environmental benefits and electricity for 800 households.

Largest low head

Officially opened in March 2017, Kirkthorpe is the largest low head river hydro plant ever to be built in Yorkshire and the largest plant commissioned in England since the start of the century. Harnessing the flow of the River Calder, the 500kW scheme will generate electricity 24/7, 12 months of the year, for the next 100 years. The £5.3 million plant,which took 15 months to build, was completed on time, on budget and with 88% of the contracts placed with British companies, many of them local to the area.

More than 100 people worked on the Kirkthorpe project. Yorkshire’s ANF Consulting and JNPGroup designed the project, whilst Eric Wright Civil Engineering was the main civil engineering contractor. In developing Kirkthorpe, the project team worked closely with Wakefield Council, the Environment Agency and the Canal & River Trust (the scheme abstracts water from trust’s Aire &Calder Navigation) to ensure that there were no detrimental impacts from the project. The scheme has also been welcomed by local politicians and local angling groups.

Councillor Peter Box, Leader of Wakefield Council, said: “We’re delighted Kirkthorpe is up and running, providing a sustainable renewable energy source across the district. By utilising this we can help to reduce carbon emissions, protect the local environment and provide reliable, clean energy for future generations.”Indeed protecting the environment is something which Yorkshire Hydropower says it takes very seriously. As part of the project, a custom-designed passage and screen has been built to enable salmon, eels and other migratory fish to safely navigate the hydro scheme.

The 4m high Kirkthorpe Weir is one of the largest obstructions to free passage of salmon and trout from the Humber Estuary to their historic spawning grounds in the upper reaches of the Calder Valley. It also acts as a complete block to many other species of fish returning to their habitats further upstream.

Consequently, Yorkshire Hydropower has constructed a Larnier fish pass and an eel pass to aid the upstream movement and secure sustainable fish populations on the River Calder. This will also assist in protecting the future of fish eating predators such as otters, heron and kingfishers which depend on sustainable fish stocks in the river.

“We are very proud of the fact that we are helping to re-join the UK’s industrial river corridors back to their original length,” said James Vernon from Barn Energy, Yorkshire Power’s parent company.

Construction awards

Another proud moment for those working on the hydropower scheme followed the announcement in May 2017 that the Kirkthorpe scheme has been shortlisted for a British Construction Industry Award. Organised by the Institution of Civil Engineers and New Civil Engineer magazine, the awards are in their 30th year and recognise excellence in project delivery,design, construction and delivering benefit for society.

Mark Simon, Chief Executive of Barn Energy said: “We have been amazed at the levels of interest shown in Kirkthorpe and we are delighted that it’s now been shortlisted for a national award. All credit to everyone on the team who were involved in its design and construction: it was a fantastic team effort.”The Kirkthorpe project is shortlisted in the Civil Engineering Project of the Year (up to £10M) category; the award winners will be announced in October 2017.

Northern powerhouse

Kirkthorpe is the second river hydro scheme that Barn Energy has built in Yorkshire; its smaller 260kw Thrybergh scheme, on the River Don near Rotherham, opened in October 2015. Generating at full capacity since then, Thrybergh’s fish passage facility has resulted in Atlantic salmon being seen upstream at Aldwarke Weir on the eastern edge of Rotherham for the first time in 150 years.

A third project with 500kW capacity is currently under construction at the Brotherton Weir on the River Aire near Knottingley, and scheduled to enter operation by the end of 2017. Mark Simon, Chief Executive of Barn Energy spoke about the benefits that such significant and long-term investment in Yorkshire’s energy infrastructure can deliver through clean and sustainable energy to local homes and businesses,further improving the quality of rivers for future generations to come.

“Kirkthorpe and its two sister projects in Yorkshire are pioneering examples for the government’s much vaunted Northern Powerhouse,” he said. “With government support, we would develop more hydro projects in Yorkshire and in other parts of the country.”

#NorthernPowerhouse #BritishConstructionIndustryAward #Kirkthorpe #Knottingley

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