What is Reading Hydro?

Reading Hydro CBS was set up to generate renewable, low-carbon electricity from the power of the River Thames. To achieve this we designed, financed, built and now operate a hydropower scheme beside Caversham weir in Reading. Construction started in Autumn 2020, and the plant has been generating electricity since September 2021.  

Caversham weir before the hydro scheme was built
Caversham weir before the hydro scheme was built

Reading Hydro is a Community Benefit Society (CBS). This is a type of not-for-profit business that is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. Our main objective is to reduce carbon emissions by providing renewable electricity, financed by community investment. We are also committed to raising awareness of the benefits of low-carbon energy and other environmental issues.

We receive income by selling our electricity to a local business and from the feed-in-tariff (FIT). This covers our operating costs and provides a modest return to investors. Any financial surplus that we make will be returned to the community as grants for environmental projects.

Reading Hydro members at the 2018 AGM
Reading Hydro members at the 2018 AGM

We are a community of people (volunteers, members and investors) with a common purpose – to help tackle the climate crisis and bring a more sustainable future for the community of Reading. Our members and volunteers developed the hydro scheme. We raised investment to build the hydro scheme by offering the local community the opportunity to buy shares. Volunteers run the hydro plant and all the educational and other supporting activities of Reading Hydro.

Drone vie of a turbine being lifted into its channel by a crane. Second turbine still on a trailer in the background.
The first Archimedes screw turbine is lifted into place – 2021

Our hydro scheme is underpinned by science and technology.  The Archimedes screw turbines used are a well-established technology. However, detailed performance modelling using historic records of river levels and flows was needed to determine that the hydro scheme would be viable. Sophisticated electronic systems monitor the river conditions, control the operation of the turbines, and convert their mechanical rotation to electricity.  

Two Reading Hydro volunteers giving a talk to a local Beaver group in front of the turbines
Erica and Anne give an interactive talk to a local Beaver group

Reading Hydro is committed to education and raising awareness about the benefits of renewable energy, cutting carbon emissions and community action. We host trips from local schools and other organisations to show the hydro scheme in action. We also give presentations and attend local events. You can find out all about hydropower scheme from information boards on public land around it. You can also access live data on the performance of the hydro plant.

Sound like something you want to be involved with? Why not volunteer with Reading Hydro?

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