Saturday, 8 April 2017

Hydro Update

Hydro Progress    Newsletter Spring 2017
The Eskdale generator became accredited under the government's Renewables Obligation scheme in July 2016, so is permitted to earn Feed-in Tariff payments for the electricity produced. In testing during a sustained period of medium water supply, all parts operated well and safety aspects were proved.
However, in quiet conditions a particular frequency within the basic sound generated by the motor could be clearly heard. To counter this, a housing, dubbed 'the hen house', was constructed over the generator and gearbox, the obviously suspect items. The hen house is substantially made from heavy timber, insulating board and conveyor belting. The idea was that materials of different densities would reduce the various frequencies being generated, as determined by recording software loaded onto mobile phones and iPads. We even loaded the interior of the 'house' with concrete bricks, and the supporting framework with a steel girder, and for some tests, enclosed the structure in carpeting, to see which materials might be most effective before settling on a final design.
Although the volume of sound was reduced considerably, the annoying frequency was still noticeable and resulted in complaints from people living nearby. The Trust is anxious to preserve and improve relations with its neighbours. We consulted the suppliers of the components, and looked at a similar installation elsewhere. Thanks to the further generosity of Marcus Worthington, now a patron of the Trust and the main sponsor of the project, a professional acoustics survey was carried out. This confirmed our own findings, and the engineers used their expertise to design a more effective solution.

We realised that noise produced mainly in the gearbox was being retransmitted from the framework supporting the generator. So it is proposed to build a solid concrete base and erect a double-leaf walled building around the generating components, with specified insulating materials in critical locations. Significant modifications to the layout of the generator and structural supports will be necessary to link them with this new structure.

A site meeting has been arranged in early March with the National Park Authority planning department, to explore issues relating to the design and appearance of such a structure. A planning application will then be prepared. Approval and construction will take several months.

The Trust has decided that the generator should not be operated until the noise problem is resolved. The delay is disappointing to the trusts and individuals who contributed to the cost of the project, the engineers who installed the components, and the volunteers who have put in so much work to see the project realised. The treasurer has also had to revise his budgetary forecast, as no income is currently being generated from the sale of electricity. However, this is a necessary postponement and we remain confident of success once the problem has been overcome.
The National Trust has announced proposals for a larger, turbine-driven hydro project, further up the Whillan Beck. So far as we know, this will have no effect on our project.

Len Watson

HLF Update

Heritage Lottery Fund project update
The last Newsletter reported the decision to defer our round-2 application to the Heritage Lottery Fund from November 2016, to allow time for closing the funding gap caused by higher than expected building costs. Many thanks to patrons and members who made donations for this purpose. We are also grateful to the Community Funds of Cumbria County Council and the Lake District National Park Authority, which both made further grants towards additional consultancy fees incurred between November and the final submission date. The remaining cost was covered by the contingency allowance and some underspent areas in our HLF round-1 budget.
To increase our prospective income, we raised the amounts of match-funding sought from Copeland Community Fund to £75,000, and from LEADER (part of the EU Rural Development Programme for England) to £36,000. We made an entirely new application for £50,000 to the H B Allen Charitable Trust.  We also increased the amount applied for from HLF by £72,000 to £792,000, but as this figure does not exceed the estimate given at round-1 by more than 10%, are hopeful that they will find it acceptable. On this basis, 83% of the project would be funded by HLF. Thanks as always to Shirley Muir Associates, our project organisers, for their invaluable help in revising the budget and making these funding applications, and to all of our consultancy team, who (almost) all delivered their respective briefs on time and within budget.
Meanwhile, our architect Peter Kempsey of Countryside Consultants and his team were busy looking for and costing ways of reducing expenditure, by cutting some items altogether and changing the specification for others, particularly on the refurbishment of the cottage. We believe this has been achieved without damaging the sustainability of the project as a whole. In fact, some of the economies proved to be improvements. However, there is still a concern around some external works, which will have to be either completed by volunteers or differently funded, possibly as part of a wider grounds management plan. 
The total project cost is just over £1 million, of which building costs account for about £700,000, including professional fees and VAT. Activity costs – training, interpretation, learning, marketing and evaluation – are about £250,000 on the same basis.
All the applications were submitted by early February. All four, in particular the HLF application, are complex documents supported by voluminous appendices, presented in different ways according to the funders’ requirements. They represent a huge amount of work by trustees and consultants. Results of the match-funding applications will be known by the time this Newsletter goes out, but we will not hear from HLF until June.
Originally it was thought that, if we are successful, this would be too late to tender contracts and begin building work in 2017, but it is now hoped that internal work may continue over next winter, after making a start on external jobs in the autumn.

All the funding applications are competitive; succeeding in full with all four is a big ask. Through our professional advisers, we have a good idea of our strengths and weaknesses. What if we fail ? We may be looking for other sources of match-funding. HLF is probably irreplaceable as the main funder, but if the answer is not the one we want, feedback will tell us what more must be done to make our application acceptable. But for now we wait and hope.