In 2022, Groundwork were commissioned to work alongside Hallidays Hydro and Lancashire County Council to investigate the potential use of hydropower across the Irwell Catchment.

About hydropower

Hydropower is the process of creating a infrastructure which makes use of the natural flow of water to generate renewable electricity.

It’s a method that has been used to generate energy for centuries and was widely used during Manchester’s industrial revolution, with 100’s of weirs being built across the North West to power new factories.

As a modern energy source, hydro power currently only makes up 4.2% of the UK’s renewable energy generation.

Why consider hydropower?

As the host organisation for the Irwell catchment partnership, Groundwork works with partners to develop and deliver projects which improve water quality, reduce flood risk and manage water as an important natural resource.

This project looked to explore how we harness the power of our waterways, creating a new ‘green industrial heritage’ attraction, with the wider aim of:

  • Reconnecting people with local rivers
  • Improving access to our waterways
  • Facilitating fish migration
  • Reducing the impact of flooding

What we did

We were aware that there were over 300 weirs in the Irwell catchment, however not all of them would be suitable for hydro schemes.

Working with our partners we applied 4 levels of filters to our data set to help whittle down which sites would be most suitable. This included considerations such as:

  • Is there a fish pass in place?
  • Is there a community need/interest for hydropower?
  • How much energy will the weir generate?
  • How easy is it to set hydro up in the area?

What we found

After thorough data analysis and several conversations with local residents and groups, the project highlighted 13 weirs for possible community hydropower schemes.

Combined, they have the potential of powering 1,660 homes and saving 1,123 tonnes of carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere annually!

What next?

The Irwell Catchment Partnership and Groundwork are now seeking to obtain funding to continue engagement with local communities to gauge their interest in community hydro schemes in the Irwell catchment.  

Community hydropower

Several community projects have been developed in Greater Manchester which successfully utilise hydropower, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and putting energy in the hands of the local community. Schemes include: