Audlem representatives have been in discussion with British waterways about a hydro-electric scheme for two years following a feasibility report that said that up to 175,000 kWh a year could be generated along the Audlem locks on the canal, enough electricity for about forty homes. BW have said they are seeking funding for the Audlem scheme and hopes have been raised by an announcement that British Waterways is to invest £120m over the next three years in a project aimed at generating enough renewable energy to power thousands of homes.
BW has signed a partnership with The Small Hydro Company, which develops hydro-electricity installations. The initiative will develop 25 schemes along British Waterways' 2,200-mile network of canals, rivers, docks and reservoirs. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said: "This will help cut carbon emissions and further secure energy supplies."
Audlem Parish Councillor Mike Hill has also written to Mr Miliband's cabinet colleague, the Communities and Local Government Secretary of State Hazel Blears. Her Communities in Control paper and the recently circulated Sustainability in the Community paper have pushed the concept of sustainability for local communities.
Mike Hill has asked Ms Blears for financial support to put her ambitious sustainability plans into action in Audlem. He has described to her the proposed scheme to produce electricity from the overflow sluices along the canal that runs through the village. He says: "We have undertaken an expert feasibility study (a copy was enclosed) which shows how it would work and its output. However we are, in these trying times, unable to raise the amount required either through an increase of the village precept or via the Public Works Loans Board. British Waterways are fully behind the plan but are also pressed financially."
The letter goes on to say: "Hence our reasons for contacting you, as our Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to request your help in providing the sum of some £165,000 to enable this environmental project to materialise to the benefit of the community, and to contribute to our overall sustainability. It is as green a project as you could wish to see, will pay back in ten years the investment and will be a wonderful example of a remote village achieving a major step in sustainability. Given the huge subsidies going into wind farms, this will be a far more reliable source of renewable energy."
A response to the letter, which was sent through the offices of local MP Stephen O'Brien, is still awaited. But the BW announcement, supported by the Government, does indicate that projects will now get underway. With Audlem thought to be one of the first communities in the country to commission a feasibility study, there are hopes the village will get on the list of projects that are being planned.
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