Hydro power back in Bradford on Avon

A PROJECT to provide power to homes from water from the River Avon dreamed up by the late bicycle designer Alex Moulton came to fruition in Bradford on Avon last Friday.

A 130-ton crane lowered the seven-ton turbine carefully into place on the Kingston Mill estate. When it is finally commissioned later this month it will provide power to over 100 homes on the estate.

Cosmetic surgeon Dr Rupert Gabriel, who set up A&R Hydro with his wife Ann to promote the scheme, oversaw the delicate operation to winch in the huge piece of equipment.

He said:

“We had arranged everything in advance with contractors A J Brunt of Frome and Sparrows of Keynsham, who supplied the crane, and it all went off very smoothly. Most people co-operated by not parking their cars in the area but we had arranged for a company to be on standby in case any cars needed moving and a few vehicles had to be lifted out of the way. But we made sure there was no damage done.”

It is five years since plans were first laid to use hydro electricity in the heart of Wiltshire. Dr Gabriel said:

“This is Alex Moulton’s brainchild and it such a shame that he didn’t live to see it all happen. We sat around his kitchen table and worked it all out. He was an iconic designer and engineer and, if we could not have got it made in Wiltshire, the nearest place would be Germany.”

The machinery for the scheme, the turbine and “draft tube”, were designed and built in Devizes by Martin Tarrant of ATL Hydro.

Hydro-electricity is more commonly associated with the north of Scotland and using water from the River Avon required a step-change in technology.

Dr Gabriel explained:

“Because we are working here with only one or two metres of drop, the turbine has to be ultra-efficient. In this case we are working with efficiency of upwards of 90 per cent. The turbine will produce 55 kilowatts of power and will be working at its maximum generation on cold, dark, wet winter nights when everyone needs the power.”

Dr Gabriel said the idea for hydro-electric power came to him as he operated in his Snowberry Lane Clinic in Melksham.

He said:

“We use a lot of power there, so my wife Ann and myself tried to think of ways we could generate it in a sustainable way.”

The turbine, which cost £333,000, is part of the £35m scheme to develop the former textile factory and Avon Rubber plant on the site.

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