APPROVAL has been given for a £2million hydro-electric project that will help reduce the church’s carbon footprint in Cumbria.

The project at the Diocese of Carlisle’s Rydal Hall conference centre 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 Christian retreat centre 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, which has specialised in hydro schemes since 2008.

Ellergreen works 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 and 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 minimising the impact on the surrounding environment was ‘imperative.

It is expected that the scheme will be completed early in 2015.