BRITAIN'S first community-owned water-powered electricity generator has proved there's nothing really new – as engineers fitting its turbine unearthed an 18th Century water wheel on the same site!
Excavations to install the archimedes screw in the Torrs in New Mills uncovered the waterwheel pit and remains of the original wheel that once used the River Goyt to power a spinning cotton mill, known as Torr Mill.
These artefacts are being preserved and it is hoped they will go on display in the Heritage Centre.
Historian Derek Brumhead said: "It is interesting to speculate what the nineteenth century engineers would make of this 21st century use of their water power site if they could see it."
The mill was opened in the 1790s. In the mid-nineenth century steam power was introduced in addition to the water wheel and the mill greatly enlarged and twelve mill cottages were built nearby.
The mill chimney can still be seen against the rocky wall of the gorge. The mill was burnt down in 1912 and never reopened.
The Torrs Hydro New Mills has now generated its first units of electricity and once fully operational will supply power to the town's Co-op store, with any surplus being sold to the National Grid.
Some work is still to be done including stonework and landscaping but those behind the project are delighted with how it has gone.
Steve Welsh, MD of Water Power Enterprises (h2oPE) who initiated the project said: "We are really pleased. The construction side went like a dream – on time and on budget."
Torrs Hydro New Mills Ltd was set up to provide the financial backing for the project with 90,000 towards the cost of the scheme raised through a share issue. The group will help ensure the local area benefits from the development which saw Western Renewable Energy (WRE Ltd) the main contractor.
The scheme has had the backing of New Mills Town Council, The Peak District National Park, The Coop Group, East Midlands Development Agency and the Environment Agency.
Sharing in a new future for the area
FOLLOWING receipt of our share certificate we would like to congratulate Torrshydro New Mills on bringing home a successful project, the first community owned hydro electric scheme in country.
We hope there will be more ecologically sustainable projects in the area.
The screw sits quite happily in the old industrial site and having watched it turning in the tests without the grill in place (photo attached) it was good to see the 200 hundred year ruins of the wheel bed of Torr Mill being returned to its original use, generating power for New Mills.
Mark and Jacqui Gadd