A COMMUNITY-OWNED hydro-electric scheme in Oxford will be primarily used to power the Environment Agency offices next door.

The Osney Lock Hydro is expected to go live later this week.

The scheme plans to reward investors by putting profits from the sale of electricity back into future local environmental projects.

Oxford Mail:

An artist’s impression of the scheme

Barbara Hammond, who is heading the scheme, said: “The electricity generated does not feed directly into surrounding houses because the grid regulations do not currently allow that.

“Instead, the system connects to the EA buildings at Osney Yard and they will buy the electricity from us that they use; the rest will be exported to the National Grid.”

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Project director Saskya Huggins said: “It would be wonderful to sell the electricity to individual houses but that’s not how the electricity market works.

“People invested for a range of reasons; many wanted to increase the amount of green energy produced and others having seen the destructive nature of the river wanted to see it harnessed for something positive.

She added: “The idea came as a result of a survey; a micro-hydro scheme was something people in the area have always wanted.”

“One of the main motivations was to work with Low Carbon West Oxford to make the area more carbon efficient [through future schemes].

The Osney Lock Hydro project team planned on securing a loan to pay for the project.

However, the team set up a share offer instead and received £320,000 in just 10 days, which rose to £500,000 in the first four weeks.

Oxford Mail:

 The turbine screw being lowered into place last March

Despite about 40 per cent of this coming from residents living within a mile of the lock, the electricity will not be used to power houses in the area.

City councillor Colin Cook said: “I don’t think it matters which wire it goes down or which area it provides electricity for, the EA will buy the energy and it can only benefit the community.”

The Osney and Jericho councillor warned investors’ money relied on the scheme working for a long period of time.

He added: “The high development costs mean the cost to early users will be higher than those who join later.

“As to whether or not the project eventually covers its own costs in the longer term, I assume it will but only if it runs for long enough.”

The original share offer document warned investors that Osney Hydro Lock Ltd could not guarantee investors would ever see their money again.

The investment is spent on legal, administrative and maintenance fees.

At the director’s discretion, shareholders could see a return on their investment or a contribution to future environmental projects.

City councillor Susanna Pressel was confident there would be local benefit.

She said: “I think people just feel very good about providing renewable energy.

“The Environment Agency is buying the energy and I’m confident it will be put to good use.”