Community-led hydroelectric plant in Caversham hailed as "enormous step"

  • Video report by ITV Meridian reporter Mike Pearse

A community run hydroelectric power plant has opened on the River Thames in Reading.

The £1.2 million project at Caversham Weir was funded entirely by donations and built with the help of volunteers during the pandemic.

The nearby Thames Lido will be among the first projects to benefit from the green electricity it provides, with excess power not used local sold back to the national grid.

Arnie Ringer, from Thames Lido, said the project is an "enormous step" in their efforts to reduce the lido's carbon footprint.

"We have suddenly reduce our fossil nearly half, in one step," he said.

The project uses two giant Archimedes screws, installed at the weir, that spin as the water flows down through them.

These in turn are connected to two generators which convert that motion into electricity.

The scheme has taken seven years to plan and build, and is operated through a community benefit society (CBS), a business model where profits from the project must be reinvested in the local community.

Tony Cowling, the project's founder, pointed to the history of the river as their inspiration.

"There've been mills along the river in Reading for the last 1000 years," he said.

"They were taken down in the middle of the last century, and houses have been built towards the end of the last century, so we thought "Let's have a go" at seeing if we can generate some electricity from the power of the water."

The Queen was a local supporter the Romney Weir hydroelectric project in Windsor.

This is not the first weir power station along the Thames.

A similar project was opened at the Romney Weir in Windsor in 2011, which has been providing green energy for Windsor Castle and the surrounding area ever since.

Among those at the opening on Friday (13 August) was Labour MP for Reading East, Matt Rodda.

"I think this is very significant both for Reading and the country as a whole," he said.

"This is an amazingly simple and effective way of tackling climate change."

The organisers behind Reading Hydro believe that changes to legislation will be needed to make installing this kind of local project easier.

They are now turning their attention to helping other local communities build these weir power stations up and down the country.