A GROUP of Abingdon residents have applied for planning permission to generate electricity by building two Archimedes screws in the River Thames.

The plant at the Abbey Meadow weir would cost about £1m to build, and the energy could be sold to the National Grid for £120,000 a year.

In May, the Abingdon Hydro group was granted a licence for the project by the Environment Agency.

Secretary Richard Riggs said: “We simply cannot go on living this way, burning fossil fuels as we have been.

“This is the ideal place to demonstrate that this is what renewable energy looks like.

“People are overwhelmingly in favour, no question. How many will actually pay into it is another question.”

Abingdon Hydro needs to pass all the legal tests before it can issue shares. After planning permission is granted, a lease for the land needs to be agreed with Vale of White Horse District Council.

The project also needs to acquire a fish licence from the Environment Agency.

When all the permissions are in place, the group will begin to raise the money needed to build the power plant.

The two 3.4m diameter screws will process about 5.5 tons of water per second, which could generate up to 100kW of electrical power – enough to power about 120 homes for its 50-year life span.

As there is no facility in the area which could use that amount of electricity, the group will sell their power to the National Grid.

The project started following an idea by Abingdon newsagent Peter Wiblin to relieve traffic in the town by creating a road bridge across the river at the site.

He said: “I thought, why don’t we put it where the weir is, and then build a hydro power station too?

“It is a good project, and it should get some good returns.”

Mr Wiblin invested £1,000 in the project on the agreement that the town’s Chamber of Commerce did the same.

The Government will pay £120,000 a year for the energy created.

About two thirds of that will be a “feed-in tariff” subsidising the cost of the project, which will help to repay any loan needed to build the plant, and cover maintenance. Of the money left over after costs, a limited amount will be paid back to shareholders, and the rest will go into a community fund.

The plant will legally belong to the community, and can never be sold off.

On Monday night, the town council unanimously backed the scheme, and it will now be considered by the district council, which is the planning authority.