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Can I generate using an old water mill?

Old watermills were the keystone of power generation a few centuries ago, and in most cases the hydro resource at a watermill site will be unchanged, so yes you should be able to generate using an old water mill.

The key question is whether it will be possible to install a modern hydro system and make a reasonable return on investment. A lot of watermill sites are small corn mills, and in many cases the cost of a modern hydro system will be prohibitive. Larger mills may have the potential for larger systems (>25 kW) which could make economic sense, and larger industrial sites of 100 kW+ can make very good modern hydro sites.

It is worth mentioning that generally, small sites that used to have mill ponds are often not suitable for modern hydro systems. The issue is that small sites with millponds have them because the river feeding them did not have enough flow to power a mill by itself, so the water had to be saved-up and the mill operated for a few hours when the pond was full. Nowadays the environmental regulator would not allow a site to store then release water like was done in the olden days, so these sites generally don’t have enough flow in the river for a modern system. Larger sites with mill ponds may still work, so it is always worth calling our office to check.

Generally speaking a modern hydropower system can be installed sympathetically into a historic water mill, and we have installed lots of systems into listed buildings with no problems. All of the same turbine options would be available for old watermills as would be suitable for a green-field site, and for smaller systems it is often worth considering a new ‘modern’ waterwheel which can have a reasonable efficiency and can look suburb in a historical setting.

As with all hydropower sites, the process starts with a hydro feasibility study to look at the site in detail and work out what would be possible.

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Are you considering a hydropower project ?

Renewables First have considerable experience as a hydro consultant and have a full project capability, from initial feasibility study through to system design and installation.

The first step to develop any hydropower site is to conduct a full feasibility study.

Contact us about a feasibility study today!

Once complete, you will understand the site potential and be guided through the next steps to develop your project. You can read more about hydropower in our Hydro Learning Centre.

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