An 18th century cotton mill on the banks of the River Bollin in Chesire, UK, is to produce hydropower thanks to the installation of a new Kaplan turbine.

The new hydroelectric scheme installed at Quarry Bank near Wilmslow will be switched on this week, as the UK’s National Trust takes another step forward to achieve its ambition of generating 50% of the organisation’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Quarry Bank was founded in 1784 by Samuel Greg, an entrepreneur of the early Industrial Revolution. Greg saw the benefit of harnessing the power of the Bollin to drive the huge water wheel which would in turn power his mill looms. In 1801 he constructed a weir on the river which remains a key feature in Quarry Bank’s landscape to this day.

More than two centuries later and the National Trust, working in partnership with the Environment Agency, is taking Greg’s water power scheme in a new direction.

Instead of servicing long silenced mill looms, the Bollin now powers a Kaplan turbine installed 30m downstream from the weir. The turbine generates over 55% of Quarry Bank’s onsite energy requirements.

Quarry Bank is not the only beneficiary of the new hydroelectric scheme. Alongside the turbine house, the Environment Agency has constructed a fish and eel pass that has opened up more than 10km of the Rivers Bollin and Dean, upstream of Quarry Bank, to a range of fish.

"This is a transformative scheme. I couldn’t be more delighted that Quarry Bank, with its history of harnessing the energy of natural resources, has taken such a strong lead in converting to clean energy," commented Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director at the National Trust. "It’s clear to us that we need to make big changes so that we can continue to protect our treasured places and tackle the impacts of climate change. This successful scheme marks a major step forward in our clean energy journey."

Image: Quarry Bank Mill, courtesy National Trust Images & Andrew Butler