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Hydro power project under way at UK's Durham City

Freeman’s Reach set to become the UK’s first city centre development incorporating a hydro power generator, following the installation of an innovative new water turbine.

A key aspect of the hydro power turbine installation at Freeman’s Reach in Durham City is the ‘Archimedean screw,’ which will harvest energy from the River Wear to drive a 100kw generator that is capable of supplying 75 per cent of the total energy requirement of the development. 

Measuring 13-metres long and weighing 20 tonnes the screw was designed and manufactured by water treatment and power specialists, Spaans Babcock Ltd. The screw, which was installed as part of a carefully coordinated operation between the Freeman’s Reach development team and Durham County Council, is designed to improve the ecology of the River Wear by allowing fish and elvers to travel upstream more easily to access the upper reaches of the river.

Following its installation, the Archimedean screw will undergo a programme of commissioning works before it begins generating power in the autumn.

“The Archimedean screw is a really impressive sight and, coupled with the public art installation at the new Energy Centre, they will surely add to Durham City’s rich variety of visitor attractions,” said Neil McMillan, Director of Carillion Developments. “This 21st Century technology will harness the power of the River Wear for many years to come.”

Hydro history  

Throughout the centuries a variety of buildings have benefited from the energy created by the River Wear including the former ice rink, which was powered by a 1930s turbine. The new turbine will continue the legacy of hydro-power generation at Freeman’s Reach, which dates back more than 800 years to the original medieval Bishop’s Mill. The on-site hydro-turbine has been designed to generate renewable energy 24 hours a day enabling Freeman’s Reach to be awarded an ‘A’ Rated Energy Performance Certificate and BREEAM* Excellent status. 

“The hydro-turbine is a great example of the innovative methods we are employing in order to achieve the highest possible standards of sustainability in this very important location,” said Allan Cook, managing director of Arlington Real Estate.

The new hydro-turbine is set to become a visitor attraction in its own right, as is the Energy Centre, which will feature a public art installation charting the history of energy generation on the site. It will become the new home of National Savings & Investment and Her Majesty’s Passport Office and will open up this part of the riverside to local people and visitors for the first time in generations.  With improved visitor amenities, particularly for those arriving by coach, Freeman’s Reach will offer daytime and evening café/restaurant facilities as well as featuring a new tree lined Riverside Walk.


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Energy infrastructure  •  Other marine energy and hydropower