A new hydroelectric power plant, the largest low-head river hydro plant ever to be built in Yorkshire and the largest plant commissioned in the UK in the last three years, has started generating electricity using the flow of the River Don.

It was officially opened today (Friday, 16th October) by Rt Hon John Healey MP and Richard Mercer, Head of Utilities at the Canal & River Trust.

Located at Thrybergh Weir on the River Don, near the village of Kilnhurst and five miles north-east of Rotherham, the hydropower scheme uses the flow of the River Don to power two large turbines to generate renewable electricity, enough to supply 300 homes in perpetuity.

The £2.1m plant, developed by Barn Energy and Yorkshire Hydropower, will generate electricity 24/7, 10-11 months of the year, for the next 100 years. It has been completed on time, on budget and with 80% of the contracts placed with British companies, many of them local to the area.

In developing the project, Barn Energy and Yorkshire Hydropower consulted with local angling groups, the Don Catchment River Trust, local neighbours as well as their landlords, the Environment Agency and the Canal & River Trust to ensure that there were no detrimental impacts from the project.

As part of the project, Barn Energy has built a fish and eel passage to enable salmon and trout to swim upstream in the direction of Sheffield and help the River’s eel and elver populations recover.  With the passage in place, it is hoped that salmon will eventually return to Sheffield to spawn, something which has not been seen for more than 100 years given the past pollution of the River Don and the obstacle that weirs are to migrating salmon, trout and other coarse fish.

Mark Simon, Chief Executive of Barn Energy, said: “I am delighted that Yorkshire can boast this outstanding low head hydropower scheme.  In making this special project happen, we have worked tirelessly with the Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency and local interests to ensure that hydropower enriches and repairs the local environment of the River Don, as well as reduce our burning of fossil fuels.

“This project has been supported by the local MP, John Healey, and has been supported by local angling clubs.  It can justifiably be regarded as an exemplar for renewable energy in this country.  It offers baseload electricity, delivering clean energy highly efficiently into the local grid.  It is a very long term source of clean electricity – there’s no reason why Thrybergh won’t be running into the next century.  This is truly a ‘Northern Powerhouse’.”

Rt Hon John Healey, the MP for the Wentworth & Dearne constituency within which the Thrybergh project is situated, said: “It’s great to see this type of long-term investment in energy infrastructure, especially as it is generating clean energy and repairing some of the damage done by centuries of industrialisation. I have been struck by the support for this scheme from the local community and the close working between the Canal & River Trust and the project development team. I am pleased Barn Energy’s first project in Yorkshire is in Rotherham, and wish them every success with their other schemes.”

Stuart Mills, Property Director at the Canal & River Trust, the charity responsible for the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation, said: “The Thrybergh scheme demonstrates the potential for other low head river hydro schemes, and shows how renewable power generation can be harnessed with virtually no environmental impact on rivers in England and Wales.  I’m particularly pleased to see the fish and eel passage built into the scheme.  Barn Energy and everyone involved in the project team should be congratulated.”

Barn Energy has plans for two further projects in Yorkshire, at Kirkthorpe on the River Calder and Knottingley on the River Aire, to be built over the next 2-3 years, and has plans for larger projects on the River Ouse and River Trent. The financing and construction of these larger projects on the Ouse and Trent are dependent on the outcome of the Government’s current review of the Feed-in-Tariff. Barn Energy has written to the Department of Energy & Climate Change on this matter.