U.K. to develop 25 small hydro projects on historic canal system

British Waterways, manager of the United Kingdom’s 2,200-mile systems of canals and rivers, plans to develop 25 small hydroelectric projects in a venture with The Small Hydro Co. Ltd.

British Waterways said the initiative would invest more than 120 million pounds (US$166 million) of private capital over three years to develop the hydro projects to generate 210,000 MWh per year. It said the initiative would create 150 construction jobs and offset 110,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

Backed by Climate Change Capital’s Ventus Fund, the process of gaining consents for the first five hydro projects, alongside river weirs, is to begin later in March. The proposals are to enhance waterway biodiversity as well as provide improved flood mitigation.

�Britain’s waterways were the arteries of our economy, providing transport and power,� Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said. �This scheme shows how with ingenuity and innovation they can once again deliver real economic, social, and environmental benefits, especially in tackling and adapting to climate change.�

The Small Hydro Co. is to begin a program of community engagement while seeking the necessary environmental and planning consents. The venture intends to have the first projects running in 2010 to meet the government’s hydro renewables targets.

In October 2008, British Waterways made a similar agreement with Partnership for Renewables to develop wind turbines alongside canals over five years. Income from the wind and hydropower ventures is to be reinvested in maintaining the historic waterways.

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