Since the corn mill at Nethermills was demolished in the 1950s at least 20,700 megawatt hours of useable energy have passed over the two weirs in the centre of Ayr at a rate of 320MWh per annum, enough to power approximately 80 homes.
In 2015, the Energy Agency commissioned a hydrological study of the site. Electronic level gauging took place over a six-month period, followed by a feasibility and design study by Mann Power Consulting Ltd. The results indicated that a hydro power scheme on the north bank could generate up to 85 kilowatts, producing 50-85kW for around half of the time, and approximately 320 megawatt hours in a typical year.
In 2020 the Energy Agency set up a subsidiary company, Energy Agency Renewables Ltd, to install, own and operate the scheme on the site, to be named the Nethermills Hydro Scheme.
Existing views of Nethermills Hydro site
Following a feasibility study, the technology considered most suitable for the sensitive site and providing the best financial return is an 85kW Archimedean single screw turbine. Meters and sensors connected to the generating set will measure the generation and flows and allow full, real-time monitoring and analysis of the performance of the system. The robust technology has an expected lifespan of around 50 years.
The scheme has been designed to minimise disruption to the ecology and fish habitat, improving the access for fish and eels migrating up and down the river.
The proposed design of the turbine powerhouse and mechanism will sympathetically blend into the environment, reflecting the colours of the nearby green hedge and river bank.
CAD visions of the Nethermills Hydro Scheme consented design
The power provided will be available for local use and export to the grid and will provide revenue by sale of the electricity.
A grid connection has been granted by Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) for up to 100kW of export.
Official approval has been received from Ofgem for receiving the feed-in tariff. This guarantees a payment for every kWh generated and a minimum price for every unit exported to the grid. The tariffs will be linked to the Retail Price Index and paid for 20 years following commissioning.
The chosen contractors are all experienced providers of Archimedes screw systems. Mann Power Hydro Ltd has been appointed as Project Managers to oversee the design and construction of the hydro plant.
The engineering design of the project has been provided by TJ Booth Associates.
The appointed turbine manufacturer is Vandezande BVBA (Belgium).
The civil engineering contract to construct the power plant is being finalised.
Impacts of construction works - A Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR) Licence has been obtained from SEPA. It stipulates the environmental protection aspects of the installation works as well as ongoing abstraction limits and conditions. A detailed Construction Method Statement will be drawn up by the appointed civils contractor to fulfil all conditions of the planning consent and CAR licence to ensure minimum negative impacts on the ground and ecology of the site. It will be the job of the project managers, together with the Energy Agency, to ensure the published method statement is adhered to, or adapted as necessary as the project progresses.
Fish Counter - To encourage further enhancement of the river environment a fish counter will be installed in the upper fish ladder. This will be made possible by a power and web connection supplied from the turbine house. Marine Scotland is funding the fish counter installation and ongoing monitoring and maintenance, in partnership with the Ayrshire Rivers Trust. Marine Scotland Science has awarded a design, supply and installation contract to Fishtek Consulting.
Archaeology - A report commissioned from a local registered Archaeologist states that all ground-works will be undertaken under close archaeological supervision. If any significant archaeology is discovered, the project may be held up whilst it is investigated. This has been added to the Register of Risks, although as the weirs were refurbished in 2007, it is not considered likely.
CO2 Savings - The 320MWh expected to be generated annually would save an estimated 147 tonnes of CO2 per annum.
The scheme should continue to generate green energy for many decades after its capital cost has been repaid. Future surplus funds can be used for projects to reduce carbon and fuel poverty in South West Scotland
A hydro scheme providing 100% green electricity is in keeping with South Ayrshire Council’s long-term development plan to regenerate the riverside area in a sustainable way
The project will raise awareness and understanding of the use of renewable energy technology
The site will be a local attraction displaying information to educate visitors
The hydro scheme passed its grid connection testing today and video shows the turbine turning and generating electricity.
Work has continued onsite throughout December, January and into February 2022. The civil construction contract was extended to 11th February 2022 to allow remaining works to complete following high water events throughout the autumn and winter months.
The powerhouse and concrete construction along with the turbine are all in place. The site currently has:
Work Planned for February 2022:
After benefiting earlier in the project from an unusually dry summer, the contractors encountered significant difficulties caused by high water levels during Autumn and Winter 2021. This situation only occurred because of a delay of a month in the delivery of the turbine equipment from Belgium due to the steel supply chain problems linked to COVID-19-related fluctuations in global demand.
This has resulted in the final installation phases being delayed into the autumn and winter. High levels of rainfall over this time resulted in river levels rising rapidly affecting the progress of works. It had been our earlier intention through careful project planning to avoid this period, but with the delays encountered with steel shortages we inevitably ran into this difficult weather season.
Ultimately this has resulted in the civil construction completion date being extended initially to the end of January then further into mid-February 2022.
The contractors have worked tirelessly throughout to meet challenging demands and weekly progress meetings have been held to ensure we remain on-track for our official ‘opening’ at the end of February and electricity generation by March 2022. The civil contractors, Bailey Construction Ltd, have been working their way through finishing touches and are progressing through a comprehensive ‘snag-list’. Their sub-contracted roof specialists Skygarden installed the sedum roof over two days in late January.
The smolt/eel/lamprey works that were scheduled for this week have again been delayed until the water levels recede, likely w/c 14th February.
The Vandezande engineers have completed most of their commissioning works on the screw and by-wash gate, with a final visit expected w/c 14th February.
The electrical contractor TLS Renewable Consulting Ltd and their sub-contractors have completed most of the installation of the control system. Testing of this began on 3rd February and is ongoing in readiness for the G99 grid-connection test with SPEN on 15th February. A short test allowing water to flow through and turn the turbine for the first time took place successfully on 7th February.
We remain confident that we will achieve successful completion well in advance of the final commissioning deadline of 18th March 2022.
Cameras are situated on the nearby Ayrshire College building so time lapse footage of the site’s development is available here
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