Pub’s water powered technology could have a “major impact” on future of hydropower

The River Mill at Eaton Socon

The River Mill at Eaton Socon - Credit: Archant

A state-of-the-art project to create a water-powered generator is being launched at the River Mill pub in Eaton Socon next week.

Doug and Collette Barnes

Doug and Collette Barnes - Credit: Archant

A public exhibition, with plans and drawings explaining the technology, and the history of the old mill, which was built in 1847 and used a water turbine for operation, opens on January 15. Work on the generator, which will be housed under the water, will begin a few days later.

The man behind the project is Doug Barnes, who lives at the Mill House with his wife Collette, and the couple own and run the pub, restaurant and the marina site.

Mr Barnes spoke to The Hunts Post in 2013 to outline his plans to install an Archimedean water screw to generate power, but has since opted for a new scheme developed by VerdErg Renewable Energy. The company will install its Venturi-Enhanced Turbine Technology (VETT) and the River Mill scheme will act as a pilot for much larger projects that will eventually use tidal power to produce energy.

“This is a very exciting and prestigious development that will be taking place in our small village,” explained Mr Barnes.

“The technology we have chosen to run with is something entirely new and the scheme in Eaton Socon will be the first anywhere in the world making use of VETT. The installation could have a major impact on the way we can exploit hydropower in an environmentally sensitive and economical way.”

The design makes use of the Venturi effect, named after the 18th century Italian physicist Daniel Bernoulli Venturi who discovered that when a liquid passed through a constricted tube, the liquid accelerated and its pressure dropped. The effect has been used in a number of ways, probably most commonly in the carburettor of a car.

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The current technology is the work of Peter Roberts, a semi-retired British naval architect and engineer, who spent 10 years developing his ideas, which were tested and developed further by the BHR Group at the Cranfield University campus.

“Just like the Archimedean screw the idea is to extract energy as the water falls from the upper mill pond into the lower mill pond which is termed the “head” of water. The drop is about 1.4m, which is a really low head and meant that we were at the limit of operational viability for the screw. The VETT makes use of the Venturi effect to act as a pump without any moving parts to effectively boost the head, drawing in a secondary flow which drives a conventional turbine - the only underwater moving part.”

The VETT will be located under the water and will include an eel pass and may, in time, be used to assist with ecological studies of the river’s eel population and other water wildlife. The new design is also more environmentally friendly and Mr Barnes is confident it will address the concerns of neighbours who made objections to his original plans.

“One of the main concerns around the screw design was noise; with the VETT - everything is taking place well below the water surface so there will be no noise at all. Once the device is installed there will be virtually nothing to see as this design doesn’t need a turbine housing so the view of the mill pond will be unimpeded.”