back to article Century-old hydropower plant to run on fudge

Proof, if it were needed, that technical illiteracy is now well and truly out of control in the UK has been furnished in the last 24 hours by a rash of news reports on a small hydroelectric power plant. The Linton Falls generating station, built on the River Wharfe in the Yorkshire Dales in 1909 but out of action since 1948, is …


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  1. An ominous cow herd

    Don't be pedant

    If someone reports on a power plant that produces electricity and says it is enough to power 100 homes, noone will assume that the report is about anything else than electricity!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh hush, you cynic.

    This is a heritage project that has the side effect of producing electricity, and, since electricity is such a small proportion (shall we guess at a fifth) of our homes' total energy use, it's not unreasonable to reckon that it's going to provide enough electricity for 100 homes' needs. Teh Grauniad might be guilty of sloppy wording, but the context of electricity is clear; it specifically doesn't claim to be providing enough for the *total* energy requirements of those houses.

    Does it count a straw man when you put words in their mouths they didn't say?

  3. andrew mulcock

    how big are these falls ?

    could be wrong, but the picture here apparently taken in winter ( I assume good water flow in winter ) don't show that high a set of falls.,_River_Wharfe.jpg

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward




  5. Tony Bryer

    How much electricity?

    "An average UK home actually uses 22,795 kilowatt-hours of energy annually as of 2001"

    I find this very hard to believe - at 10p per unit that would mean that the average quarterly bill was £552. My annual electricity consumption - a single person household, admittedly - has averaged around 2,000kWh.

  6. Pete James

    Well I like the sound of it

    Interesting stuff Lewis, but I think there's some other points around this that would be good to explore as well. If the hydro station can be recommissioned relatively easily, quickly and at a moderate cost, why not look at generating power for small communities in this way across the country? These could hook into the existing grid but alo offer some degree of energy creation for more isolated areas. The ability to generate sufficient power is from what I can see here, to be a pretty fundamental issue though; twenty homes is a bit miserable really.

    It's a debate worth having, and if nothing else some form of competition in energy creation, however minor it may be, can't be a bad thing for users.

  7. Sceptical Bastard

    Hydro is the answer

    Small river, no dam or reservoir, insufficient head, ancient screw instead of modern turbine... a 'heritage' curiosity and nothing more. But no doubt, tree-huggers will think "Oooh, cheap power! An Archimedes screw! Let's build a data centre in Wharfedale!"

    Wrong! We've gotta think big, go for areas of high rainfall where's there is plenty of height difference. To save the planet *and* get rid of ginger people we must flood all of Wales!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    And how much energy

    will be required to get the plant back into operation?

    Answers on a bio-degradable postcard please.

  9. Elmer Phud

    Waste of energy

    And when you go to the Guardian's website there are articles on how the nasty polluters are screwing the world, right next to articles and adverts about going on exotic holidays.

    This illustrates that the Guardian may be run on gas power -- on methane from bullshit or the kinetic energy produced by trying to show two faces at the same time. Not to mention the abundance of film clips instead of text news - how much more energy is wasted on shooting and editing these?

    Energy waste? No, not if you can afford to fly business class to Africa to stay at a carbon-balanced hotel.

  10. Rob Farnell

    It's the big elephant in the room...

    that no one is talking about.

    I think El Reg has hit the nail on the head here. What is going to be the best/cheapest way to generate heat energy. Lighting is no longer a major problem with all the energy efficient bulbs coming on to the market at an affordable price.

    Maybe we should change the whole way that energy is produced around the country and consider a group of 20 houses as a quantum that co-generates the energy from the waste that the average family produces (organic or inorganic) and use the heat to acclimatise the houses as a group. Then everyone can install Aga's to do the majority of their cooking.

    I don't understand why they are so obsessed about making all transport electric with the inefficiencies that that involves. Get rid of the resistance by superconducting magnets using liquid nitrogen on trains like this toy train example . Could you imagine how popular the trains would suddenly become if you knew you were floating on thin air and end of the bumpiness that comes with badly maintained tracks.

  11. Frank
    Thumb Up


    This is simply the restoration of a historic/technical building of some interest. The newspaper coverage is total greenwash hysteria but what do you expect from the UK mainstream press who's only purpose is to sell newspapers any way they can?

    On a technical note, I'm surprised that the Archimedes screw can be used in reverse, to convert the energy of falling water into mechanical output with any reasonable level of efficiency. It was invented and developed to lift water by mechanical energy input. The agricultural value of that lifted water was great enough to be worth the energy expended in lifting it. I would have thought that a paddle wheel or pelton wheel turbine would produce greater efficiency of conversion for power generation. However, it's not an attempt to build a power generator, it's the restoration of an old building, that's all.

  12. Joe

    It's not all bad

    That's just a way for clever people at English Heritage to secure Govt. funding. They know they only need to sprinkle a few snippets of 'renewable' and 'carbon offset', and the other eco-warrior buzzwords to get it. Read the history of GreenPeace, and notice that the two main founders left the organization years ago when they finally realized their noble ideals had been hijacked by luddites..

  13. Richard
    Thumb Down

    Bad habits

    The Green bubble deserves pricking with the cold steel needle of Reason as often as possible(Oh dear, sounds a bit Jonathan Aitken), but watching Tim Worsthall and now Lewis stabbing themselves in the foot with it is getting tedious.

    (a) the article was clearly talking about electric power, from context even if not explicitly

    (b) yes, we know there are other components of energy use

    (c) yes, we know that most media suggestions for energy saving are pure theatre and that the real problems are structural and significant reductions in use will require major rewiring of society (literally and figuratively)

    (d) yes, small hydropower schemes are only economic when substituting very high energy costs - but "small" really does mean small: they can become sustainable at quite low kW. There is a lot of info on the web ifyou are interested in the optimal design types, typical cost per kWh etc. e.g.

    (e) there is more to life than profit, i.e.reliability of supply. Make profit to live, not live to make profit. Also, current measures of profit neglect many externalities, so the threshold for profitability is likely to change in favour of smaller schemes than at present

    (f) there are many hydro-resources that have been abandoned and could be easily rehabilitated (from mechanical to electrical power generation if necessary). Most of these are in the countryside and far from the grid, which gives them a transmission advantage for local supply

    In summary, of all the kinds of schemes that get touted as being environmentally friendly, this one may have short-run drawbacks but it is exactly the kind of local micro-generation scheme that would flourish in the long-run, of lower emissions, higher energy prices, higher sensitivity to transmission costs, more decentralised generation and more emphasis on energy security.

    Why waste your breath knocking this when charismatic mega-schemes for windpower and even wave power (Severn Barrage) threaten to waste capital and despoil the environment and nobody is protesting against them?

  14. rickee

    @sceptical bastard

    Thank you.... I now have coffee all over my screen

  15. Anonymous Coward

    May I be the first to say

    A good screw will power one room in one building for one night.

    Also, have they thought about hamsters?

    // mine's the latex one - doing my bit for global population control, while fecking for England

  16. Dave

    @Rob Farnell

    Actually, it's not entirely about efficiency - quantity comes into it as well. Not that this provides much, but when the next power station has to shut down unexpectedly, we are going to need every watt available to keep ournew 'Leccy cars (and Milk Floats) charged up.

  17. G R Goslin

    @ Greenwash

    There's no reason why the losses of an Archimedes Screw are any more on the power producing or power using side. Their biggest advantage, apart from the simplicity, is that it's suitable for low falls (or lifts). From the photo, I'd say that the Linton Falls are more of a stumble than a fal, and Pelton wheels require a large fall.

    Of course, in this green day and age, you're not allowed to use all the water. The fish must have their share. By the time the cost of the Environmental Studies have been factored in, the thing will be due for replacement

  18. Joel

    A bit harsh...

    The guardian article was referring to electricity generation, and so it is not unreasonable to expect the reader to read this as "produce enough [electrical] power for 100 homes." I would suggest that in this instance it is Lewis who is reading into the statement more than is there by taking the above statement to mean producing enough [total] energy for 100 homes, which is something else entirely.

    Living not far from Grassington, there is also the added benefit to schemes such as these that they can provide an additional local power source for when the flaky grid electricity falls down yet again, as it does so extremely frequently.

  19. Paul Barnfather
    Thumb Down

    Oh, come off it!

    The typical electricity consumption for a UK household is around 3,000 - 5,500kWh per year (ranging from single person at the low end up to a family house).

    This hydro plant produces 510,000kWh each year.

    So yes, it's enough to "power over 100 homes [with electricity]" .

    I'm all for criticism of unnecessary greenwash. But what is the problem here, exactly?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Careful with that axe Eugene.

    I would expect the plant to provide electricity for 100 homes, as stated. Just as if it were a nuclear plant pumping out the juice I would use the same metric and not try to muddy the waters.

    But hey, that's just me.

    I see no plans for CHP systems that will heat our homes and no one is pretending there will be. Unless you know something I don't on these issues. Which would be a minor miracle in itself.

    Lewis, if you want to make a case for a different balance of electrical generation in this country, please, make that case. Your arguments in that field I have found, so far, wanting.

    @Joe - You obviously did not carry on reading those founders bios. If anything you could show they take a more extreme position than Greenpeace does today, and they left Greenpeace to pursue those more extreme goals. I personally find society today extremely resistant to cleverness and intelligence, in general. Its not a Greenpeace phenonomen its how people have nearly always been, at any time in history. As an example I would suggest you do not even know where the term Luddite originated, but then your just a pleb when all's said and done.

  21. Luther Blissett


    This is what happens when you surfeit on humbug.

  22. Phil the Geek
    Thumb Up


    My home town (also Up North) installed one of these Archimedes screw generating plants by a big weir on the river that runs through the town. They got featured on Working Lunch for the initiative. Locals are allowed to invest in the scheme, which sells electricity to the grid.

    It's not much, but it's a step in the right direction, which is a lot better than no step at all.

  23. Ian Ferguson
    Dead Vulture

    Missing the point

    I think you're missing the point a bit. If we can generate cheap, renewable electricity, then people will notice that it's cheaper to use electric cookers, water heaters and radiators.

    It seems unlikely that anyone will come up with renewable gas or oil supplies, so renewable electricity production is the best we can hope for.

    Mind you, the funniest thing I've seen for a while was the British Gas adverts promising that if you switched to them, they'd send you some low-energy light bulbs to kit out your house. I can't see them doing the same if they were providing the electricity too.

  24. Dave Bell
    Paris Hilton

    Archimedes screw?

    There's something sounding a bid odd about this. For want of a better term, the gearing of the system feels wrong, getting from the screw to a usable generator shaft speed.

    (Bur I'm only commenting for the chance to use the Paris pic....)

  25. Alan Fisher

    As usual...

    ...unless it's producing gigawatts of energy and playing a cheery tune while it does it, people will criticise it rather than praising any small efforts on their own merits! No wonder green energy never takes off in this country, because people always poo-poo it before it even starts working *sigh*

    I live in Ireland and the only reasons I don't use greener energy sources at home are

    1) I rent and am limited in the changes I can make

    2) The currently high start-up costs

    if it were cheaper I'd do it but I do have some silver-lined (non polluting) clouds here. I cycle to and from work as often as weather permits (tis winter now); let's say 3-4 times a week out of 5, I have a mini wind turbine ( on my bike which powers my rerchargeable lights, mp3 player, phone and bluetooth headphones (it has usb ports) my transport method is entirely green. When i don't cycle, i use public transport.

    For greener transport, cycling is the key and I know the objections;

    1) it's dangerous - not if you follow the rules of the road and be alert

    2) pollution - I know a reasonably priced number of masks you can buy which do the job and don't look stupid (though slightly ninja-ish)

    3) Fitness - comes with time

    4) weather - reasonably priced waterproofs from a number of specialist bike websites

    5) Lack of inner city cycle lanes etc - the more people there are using bikes and campaigning, the sooner we'll have them

    in effect we could all, with ease, be greener than we are but we make excuses for not being so, even my wife does (bless her)...I cycle 20 miles a day, but not everyone has to do that, obviously!

    But in small ways, we each can make a difference

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Getting Desperate?

    Seems the environmental writers at El Reg are beginning to wear themselves out - this is the second anti-greenwashing article this week that suggests that the authors haven't really read and definitely not understood the reports they are having a go at.

    This one was based purely on the assumption that your average Grauniad reader would be too thick to assume that when the reporter was talking about electrical generation and consumption, then figures would be quoted in the context of electricity.

    Fair enough, they should have said "enough electricity for X homes", because nowadays, you always need to assume your articles are going to be published out of context, and misread by people. Now, let me find something nice and dangerous in BofH and do the same...

    Keep it up though - every time you run one of these articles, I go and read the source with a much more critical eye. It doesn't matter whether they're right or wrong, we should always question the information...

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Electrical energy.

    >Mainly, for our big energy-hungry tasks - heating, hot water, a lot of our cooking - we use gas or

    >oil. That's how we consume energy at home in this country.

    Not me, my flat is 100% electric, and I can confirm that it's shit.

    @Tony Bryer

    > "An average UK home actually uses 22,795 kilowatt-hours of energy annually as of 2001"

    > I find this very hard to believe - at 10p per unit that would mean that the average quarterly

    >bill was £552. My annual electricity consumption - a single person household, admittedly -

    >has averaged around 2,000kWh.

    You have gas as well then?

  28. frymaster

    Good point well made

    intelligent stewardship of resources requires joined-up thinking, and it's no good making a policy decision to do things a certain way ("we want to reduce carbon emissions", for example) and then ignore most of the system.

    the point has nothing to do with some random heritage project, mind you :P

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Be careful for what you wish for

    There is one of these at Howsham Weir. They have just got it working and it will not only be hopefully be hooked up to the grid by now but they intend to install a 2nd one as far as I now.

    The electricity can also be used by events at the weir when required and generating some income to fund the maintenance and restoration of the old mill.

    The only downside with these ventures is the potential loss of use of the weirs to canoeiests and the like who will have to portage the potentially dry weirs and lose the fun of running such weirs. I guess there may also be an effect on fish and potentially habitat upstream of the weirs due to reduced river levels.

    Done in a managed way with consultation of other river users such things can provide a very positive impact.

  30. blackworx

    I get it

    LP went out on a limb to make a point, and it's a fair one, so no real use in having a go just cos he was grinding his axe again.

    Of course everyone *knows* the 100 homes figure is "only for leccy" but that's beside the point.

    As long as people keep banging on about switching off lights and tellies instead of not spending thirty minutes in the shower of a morning, or chucking their designer kecks in the wash after one wear*, then all this green twaddle is just that - twaddle.

    * Not that I'm suggesting the average Reg reader might do such a thing, even if they owned such a pair of fancy kecks... or in fact a washing machine!

    Mine's the one with the visibly rising stink of patchouli.

  31. davefb

    more details

    would be nice. To find out how much the device costs in order to produce what *appears* like £51,000 worth of electricity per year ( at 10p a unit)..

    I used to live near the Wharf , there was a wier already built for a now removed mill, on the face of it you'd think it would be a low cost solution to just stick a new wheel/screw whatever into where the old wheel was even if it doesn't provide for thousands of homes, surely there's quite a few of these places still left ?

  32. Sam Tana
    Thumb Down


    I'm guessing the Guardian was using an estimate of 100 homes just to give people an idea of the scale of the project. It was a news item, not a technical report.

  33. Sam


    "Mind you, the funniest thing I've seen for a while was the British Gas adverts promising that if you switched to them, they'd send you some low-energy light bulbs to kit out your house. I can't see them doing the same if they were providing the electricity too."

    BG are providing both to us and have been for several years, ( we got the price freeze deal), and two months ago we got our free low E bulbs.

    On a side note, I remember arguing with SWMBO about metric versus imperial and I started to explain about displacement theory.

    Memorably she responded with the phrase; "Screw Archimedes!"

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @Sceptical Bastard

    "we must flood all of Wales"

    Think of the sheep. Who's looking out for all those poor sheep!

    @Richard - "deserves pricking"

    erm, yes...thus I selected Paris....

  35. Anonymous Coward

    FUDGE =

    Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt, Greenpeace Excretia ?

  36. Anonymous Coward

    back in 1948 ...

    sensible people were running the country :)

    to give us the power we need , and to stop us being open to extortion by the cartel of energy rich countries we need nuclear power, or we could just open up the mines again and dig out the 300 years worth of coal that's been left down there because a previous Tory administration decided to fund questionable "green" CO2 research in the early 1980s to 'shaft' the miners, and also to declare war on hard-working individuals who dug this stuff out of the ground ( hardwork of the type that a booted-and-suited-bullshitting-banker-tory-arsehole wouldn't know if it slapped them around the face. )

    and all the "greenies" who start whinging about coal or nuclear well we'll just cut of all their 'leccy' appliances, which will help them to "do their bit" , and also go someway to curtailing their ability to spread carbon-bashing-pseudo-science, since they will not be able to email or telephone.

    for the "greenies" that still will not shut up then we could march them to some island of the north end of Scotland, getting them to swim there. Once there, they could put all their green theories into practice. If any of them survive their "green" march, swim and inhabitation of a desolate place without the use of any sort of CO2 releasing fuel, well then I might listen to them. Since they'd all probably die , I don't see that happening. Oh beautiful peace !

    In the unlikely event that some of the CO2 conspiricist greenies make it back from the island north of Scotland, well if they were all really that concerned about their impact on the planet then they would commit suicide immediately and stop using resources right now. If they don't kill themselves then I don't believe they are sincere about their impact on planet earth . Of course they can leave a note to the rest of us that their suicide was for green purposes, then we can posthumously acknowledge their dedication in our centrally heated luxury homes whilst reading about their sacrifice for us on the internet !

    roll on coal and nuclear ( and greenie suicide ) !

    end of non-green sermon.

  37. Anonymous Coward

    @Sceptical Bastard

    "To save the planet *and* get rid of ginger people we must flood all of Wales!"

    Just get rid of England, problem solved. More than enough renewables in Wales for ourselves.

    Flames, because we all like to come home to a real fire.

  38. Pierre

    Simple math

    Heritage building to produce leccy

    +News papers wanting to sell, well, paper

    +Bored tech journo / slow news day



    You have 5 minutes.

    If they want to restore the building, why leave that harnessed power go unused? If it can power a few households, why not? I did not hear anyone saying that the world can be powered by Archimedes screws in small streams of water.

    On a side note, you can save the polar bears. Just use xyzzy instead of airplanes or cars or trucks. You'll save time, too.

  39. Herby

    All creatures Great and Small

    Look, somebody needs to do it. To me it looks like this sort of thing is based on silly ideas. Everybody knows that natural gas is a much better way to generate heat (forced air heating and nice toasty hot showers). My house averages about a demand of around 1kW. This translates to around 8800 kWh in a year.

    Give me that nice 1GW Nuclear plant please. NOW!!

    Then we can start talking about using Ready Kilowatt for things other than lighting and TV's (and computers!)

  40. Ishkandar

    Storms in a teacup

    While you guys are arguing about a little weir, large swathes of the UK are flooded !! Why can't *THAT* water be harnessed to better use than destroying people's homes ??

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  42. Jim

    RE: back in 1948 ...

    ... The people in power needed a source of weapons grade plutonium and so sold the idea of nuclear power generation to get public funding (Calder Hall & Chaplecross).

    And coal production died in the uk because it was cheaper to import coal of foreign origin. Cheaper in terms of unit cost to the user anyway, though it could be argued that the cost to the country was far greater, ie loss of GDP.

    And then your post degenerates in to a rabid troll...

  43. Gavin King

    Re: FUDGE

    I believe that you missed a punctuation mark. It should read:

    Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt: Greenpeace Excretia

    That is all.

  44. Alan Fisher

    @AC Posted 31st October 2008 22:07

    Get it through your head that we would not be in the position we are and need to suggest those alternatives which we do had it not been for Thatcher selling off the Public Utilities and putting us under the yoke of international energy cartels in the first place...

    she closed down the mines not under pressure from any Greenies (as you state) as that'd be too liberal for her (like she cared what we thought) but because the mines were described as unprofitable and easy competition for the nuclear dream. Nuclear was cheap and blah blah.....they forget the million year legacy it leaves behind.

    If we were given greener energy options, instead of effective technologies being choked, we'd all be happier I'm sure

  45. Alan Fisher


    what is it with humans? Does the lion have to have it's teeth firmly latched onto the back of your head before you realise he's dangerous??? It's this damnded human Superiority to Nature....we'll always win eh?

    Nothing will, as usual, be done until it's way, way too late. Then you'll partake in that other favourite human passtime of finding someone to blame..anyone at all as long as the real cuplrits - you yourselves - are not 'it'.

    sickening, it'd be so easy to resolve all this if the technically minded publci especially got together and did something

  46. fr33cycler

    Fair comment...

    ...and look forward to you picking up all those nuclear types who tell us nuclear power stations provides a quarter of our energy, or that the provide almost all of Frances's.

    In a way it is even worse than you say because you're still limiting a household energy use to the house - most families also use trasnport of one kind or another.

    The one point you do have to bear in mind however is that is is realtively easy to get a house to stage where it needs virtually no energy for heating through ver high insulation levels etc, whereas is is difficult to run electrical appliances and lights without electricity.

  47. Andus McCoatover

    Think of the children!!!!

    Wonder how much carbon all them fuc*king CCTV cameras generate?? Plus the methane, generated by all them boring farts monitoring them. Plenty of carbon in methane...

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another option

    What about just using a set of water mill wheels to generate the power than a screw, doesnt have to be fast but fairly constant. Seems the falls are wide enough to accomodate quite a few...

  49. A J Stiles

    @ AC 14:40

    Try picking up a high school physics textbook sometime, will you?

    The amount of power you can generate (in watts) is given by the flow rate of water (in kg/second), multiplied by the acceleration due to gravity (in m/s²), multiplied by the height difference (in metres).

    Using additional water wheels won't help, because the same number of kg/s are now being shared between more wheels.

  50. Stephen Bungay

    Open Energy... term coined here first...

    Alan Fisher wrote

    "it'd be so easy to resolve all this if the technically minded publci especially got together and did something"

    I'm game.

    Anyone else?

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