British Waterways and the Small Hydro Company are starting 25 small-scale hydropower
projects on the banks of British Waterways' 2,200-mile waterway
The project will be funded with a £120 million investment from Climate Change Capital, a £1.1 billion investment fund focused on renewable energy technology.
Once fully operational, the
hydropower projects will generate 210,000 megawatt-hours per year (enough renewable energy to power 40,000 homes), and
prevent an estimated 110,000 tons per year of greenhouse gas emissions.
About 150 jobs are expected to be created during the construction of
Canals being considered for the scheme would not be man-made but rivers converted into waterways, which retain a natural flow. Underwater turbines will be installed next to existing weirs and will not affect the navigation of canals and rivers.
The first two hydropower projects will be located on the Severn and Trent Rivers. The other locations identified are the Ouse, Don and Aire rivers in Yorkshire. The first project is expected to begin operating in 2010.
Any income generated from the schemes will be reinvested in the maintenance of the waterways.
About 40 per cent of the United Kingdom's renewable electricity is provided by hydropower but few large schemes have been constructed since the 1980s. Globally, hydro generates about 20 per cent of electricity requirements.
"Britain's waterways were the arteries of our economy, providing transport and power," said the environment secretary, Hilary Benn, when the plans were first announced in March. "This scheme shows how with ingenuity and innovation they can once again deliver real economic, social, and environmental benefits, especially in tackling and adapting to climate change."
• Last year British Waterways announced plans to build wind turbines with 100MW of generating capacity.
Above: the "in-stream hydrokinetic turbine" being developed by Hydrovolts.