A LAKE District village plans to build a weir across the River Kent and harness electricity to sell on to the national grid - with any profits fed back into the community.

The concept of a community-owned hydro scheme in Kentmere, near Kendal, was born out of a parish meeting almost two years ago and, if approved, would generate 1,250MWh of electricity each year, enough to power 300 homes.

“The people in the valley thought it would be a good idea to try and generate power from the River Kent to help reduce the use of carbon fuelled power generation,” said Dr Jackie Bettess, a trustee of the Kentmere Hydro Trust (KHT).

“We will sell the electricity to utility companies and use the profits to benefit the community.”

A feasibility study carried out earlier this year confirmed the idea was viable and work has now started to design the final scheme, which is estimated to cost more than £1.25 million.

A small weir would be built on private land at the top of a 350 metre-long cascading reach of the river.

From the small pool that would form, some water would be diverted and carried along a buried pipeline, dropping it nearly 40 metres vertically to a stone and slate-dressed turbine house where electricity would be generated before the water is returned to the river.

The trust has worked with the Environment Agency as part of the design phase to minimise ecological and environmental impacts.

Iain Johnston, chair of KHT, said the money generated by the project, which is estimated to be around £100,000 a year, would first pay off the cost of the scheme before being put back into the community.

“We have two large buildings, our church and village hall, which would benefit and we hope to help the infrastructure, such as repairing walls,” said Mr Johnston.

He also said that he hoped the project would become an inspiration to other communities to develop similar schemes and some of the profit would go towards fulfilling that.

A planning application has been submitted to the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) and, if approved, the building is expected to begin next year and be complete by late 2011, with power generated from 2012.

The project will be funded through various grants and loans and the trust is looking for a voluntary fundraiser. Email info@kentmerehydro.org for more information.

For more details on the scheme visit www.kentmerehydro.org.