Milling for power
For hundreds of years, Dorset's watermills have been producing flour but now they could be the solution to a very modern problem, creating sustainable energy. BBC Dorset has been to visit a mill near Weymouth which is now generating electricity.
Upwey Mill has being grinding corn on the banks of the River Wey for centuries using a giant water-wheel. Having been given a book about hydro-electricity owner Richard Willett and his wife Susan decided the mill could be put to another use.
Several years and £50,000 later the mill is about to be connected to the national grid, with a capacity to generate up to 15 KW an hour.
The couple had to dig down the equivalent of a two storey house to install a water turbine. They also had to restore sluice-gates behind the turbine to allow enough pressure to build up before the water could be released to drive the device.
Richard Willet dug a 16 foot hole for the turbine.
Richard said, "The major hurdle was digging down to 16 feet in a confined space with difficult ground conditions and having to extract some very large pieces of rock."
The British Hydropower Association estimates that water-generated power accounts for about 40% of Britain's renewable energy. It's currently undertaking two studies to calculate the potential capacity of the resource.
Domestic and community purposes
Its Chief Executive Officer David Williams said: "Over the last two or three years, we've seen the formation of many mill groups, people who want to develop micro-hydro, not necessarily for domestic purposes but for communities."
Sluice gates over the River Wey
The newly formed West Dorset Mill Group has been watching the progress at Upwey closely as is Dorset County Council which is keen to develop micro-hydro power.
Simon Taylor, the council’s Renewable Energy Officer believes 40 mills in the county could be converted. That could save 1600 tonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere from fossil fuels.
The mill at Upwey is one of several in Dorset already producing power. Lyme Regis Town Mill was switched on last year and the mill at Stour Provost in North Dorset is using its historic water-wheel to generate electricity. Other conversions are in progress at mills on the Rivers Brit and Bride, Frome and Stour.
last updated: 08/05/2008 at 15:12