Wind and Water Power in Derbyshire

It is right to draw attention to the possibilities of water power as a source of renewable energy. Both water and wind power have been used for millenia to take the manual labour out of simple tasks such as grinding. The suggestion that water power should be used before we resort to large windmills results from falling into the trap of failing to include figures in the argument.

If we take the example of Arkwright’s mill at Cromford: a visit there will show that the machines were powered with two water wheels that generated around 20 horse power. Arkwright soon ran out of power and moved round the corner to a weir on the Derwent where he built Masson Mill with a further two water wheels that generated around 30HP. Whilst these pioneers showed the way for the industrial revolution, it did not happen until steam engines where improved to the stage that they could generate substantially higher powers and for 150 years our energy came from coal, the start of the human cause of global warming.

The advent of electrical technology provided a more efficient way of converting energy and Masson Mills installed their first water turbine driven alternator of 100kW in the 1920s and added a further one of 160kW in the 1950s. They now have the ability to produce 260kW but are unable to do so on a continuous basis as there is not enough water in the Derwent. Nevertheless they continue to supply electricity to the grid as they have done for many years.

Let me put these power levels on a practical level: a modern car has an engine of 50 – 100 HP (37 – 75 kW) which is as much or more power than Arkwright had to run his two mills. A modern house will be wired to consume 25kW and if supplied with gas and a modest boiler to take another 20kW (a total of 60HP). Masson Mill’s alternators would perhaps be able to supply electricity for around 20 houses.

The generators proposed for Matlock Moor will be rated at 2,500kW each, a total of 12,500kW, eighty times the output of Masson Mill. An output that would be both difficult and very expensive to collect from all the rivers in Derbyshire. The choice is ours. We either accept the relatively benign modern wind generators (and other forms or renewable energy sources) or we will have to go without our cars and other high energy consuming devices that we have come to rely on in recent years.

Charles Brown
Derbyshire Green Party

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One response to “Wind and Water Power in Derbyshire

  1. Re: Wind and Water Power in Derbyshire. Broadly this article makes sense but I think Charles Brown is wrong to say it is a choice between wind power and our cars and high energy consuming devices. It is both: having naturally generated power does not get us off the hook of reducing the vast quantity of resources we currently use to manufacture, transport, retail and dispose of these products. Climate change aside, the very simple fact is you cannot have infinite growth in a world of finite resources. It is misleading to give the impression that we only have to deal with climate change, and that by turning to technology we can escapoe the need to reduce our consumption and give the natural world a break.

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