APPROVAL has been given for a two million pound hydro-electric project at the Diocese of Carlisle’s Rydal Hall conference centre.
The scheme will see the replacement of an existing hydro-electric plant in Rydal Beck which dates back more than 90 years and has provided power to the hall and site.
The electricity generated from the new plant at the diocese’s Christian retreat centre near Ambleside will provide some on-site power with the surplus fed back into the local electricity network.
The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev James Newcome, said: “As a diocese we are committed to exploring renewable energy sources where possible, but in forms that are compatible with the local environment and the local economy.
“This is a wonderful example of that being put into practice and represents the diocese adopting the guiding principles which lie within our diocesan environmental policy.
“As well as showing a Christian duty of care and love to one another, we must show that same care to our environment and surroundings and ensure there's sustainability through our work. This scheme is a wonderful way in which we can demonstrate this.”
The diocese will work in partnership with Kendal company Ellergreen Hydro Ltd, who have specialised in hydro schemes since 2008.
Ellergreen work in partnership with Gilbert, Gilkes & Gordon Ltd, manufacturers of hydro turbines in Kendal since 1856 and the suppliers of the first hydro system at Rydal.
Mark Cropper, managing director of Ellergreen, said: “We are delighted to be working with the diocese on this important project.
The new scheme will be the largest hydro-electric scheme in the Lake District and a major contributor to the National Park's Low Carbon Vision.
“Over an average year it will provide enough electricity for nearly 400 households.”
Work on site is due to begin this month, after the scheme was granted approval by the Lake District National Park Authority.
Initial work will see some tree felling and removal of invasive rhododendrons in woodland near to where the new hydro scheme is to be sited.
A new water pipe will be laid to feed the turbine; this will follow the route of the existing pipe. A new turbine will also be housed in a specially designed stone building with slate roof which is in keeping with local buildings.
Martin Jayne, a director of the Diocesan Board of Finance, said: “What has been imperative throughout the planning of this scheme is that there is as little impact as possible on the surrounding environment.
“That's why the scheme of works will last for 12 months. This will allow for any tree felling to be completed prior to the nesting season for birds. And any work in Rydal Beck will be completed in a way which will not impact on the breeding season of crayfish.
“In terms of the wider environment, the power output of the scheme makes the Diocese of Carlisle carbon neutral in its use of electricity.”
The scheme of work has also been carefully scheduled to avoid any direct impact on the activities at Rydal Hall.
Jonathon Green, manager of Rydal Hall said: “We’re thrilled that our diocesan environmental policy will be seen to be in action here at Rydal Hall. It’s wonderful that we will be able to continue to use our God-given resources within the hall's grounds to such wonderful effect.
“At the same time we would take this opportunity to reinforce the message that the works on the hydro-electric scheme have been carefully scheduled and planned so as to have minimum impact on what we do here at Rydal Hall.”
It is expected that the scheme will be completed early in 2015.