University experts are carrying out a study of the River Great Ouse to determine if it could be harnessed to produce renewable energy.
The idea for a hydro-electric plant at Little Paxton is at an early stage but if the 12-week study is positive, the St Neots Community Hydro Scheme would move to a full feasibility study.
The work is being carried out by Anglia Ruskin University’s Faculty of Science and Technology, looking at a site just south of the river bridge and sluices on Mill Lane.
The study, being written by Dr Esther Norton and John Buchanan, will assess the viability of the scheme, including the most suitable type of plant for the location and the financial return.
The university is expected to complete the study by June 12.
A community benefit company would be established to oversee the scheme and it is anticipated that a proportion of the revenue earned from the sale of electricity to the national grid would be made available for other local renewable energy community projects.
It is hoped that because the proposed hydro-electric plant typically has a lifespan of about 40 years, it would provide regular dividends for investors.
The two leading members of St Neots Community Hydro Scheme – John Mouatt and Mick Marks – are both residents of Little Paxton.
Mr Mouatt, a chartered civil engineer, said: “The River Great Ouse is an ideal source of renewable energy, which flows 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, therefore, providing a reliable and significant feed for a hydro-electric plant at the location chosen.”
Mr Marks, a chartered engineer and managing director of a St Neots IT and telecoms specialist services company, said: “The St Neots Community Hydro Scheme is a great opportunity for the St Neots community and businesses to get practically involved in a genuine renewable energy project which will, over its lifetime, generate true ‘green power’, saving thousands of tonnes of CO2 from being produced by equivalent fossil-fuelled systems.
“At the same time, people will be able to invest in a local, worthwhile project.”
If the current study is favourable, the promoters will prepare and issue an Investment Share Prospectus, open to individuals and companies who wish to invest.
They will also seek to obtain grant funding and loans.
Mr Buchanan, a senior lecturer and course leader for environmental planning, said: “Anglia Ruskin is working at the forefront of low carbon energy solutions and we are delighted to be able to put our skills and expertise to practical and immediate use in a local community project.
“Community-owned low carbon energy generation is a real win-win, reducing CO2 emissions whilst also providing an economic return for the community.”