Buttermere Community Hydro

Business, Community • Allerdale

Melbreak Community Energy Limited is progressing a community hydro project that will offer a low impact, low visibility renewable energy scheme generating low carbon electricity in Buttermere.

  • Mil Beck
  • Mil Beck
  • The Bridge Hotel where the EV charge point will be located

Melbreak Community Energy's story

Melbreak Community Energy Limited (formerly Melbreak Communities CIC) has been progressing low carbon projects across the area for a number of years. It is especially hard for rural communities to transition to Net Zero as many people are reliant on their cars for travelling, as bus services are often sporadic. Many rural buildings are 'hard to treat' as they maybe stone and pre-1900 solid wall and are often heated by oil. Transitioning to heat pumps is not a cheaper solution unless extensive retro-fit and insulation works are carried out first, which can be very disruptive.

As much of the area is an area of outstanding natural beauty, more visible renewable energy technologies are not allowed. However, hydro is a low impact, low visibility form of renewable energy that generates most of its electricity in the winter months, when our energy needs are the highest. We have identified 10 potential schemes in the Melbreak area that we think could generate enough electricity to meet a significant amount of our communities demand.

Buttermere is about to submit its application for abstraction and then we will submit to planning. We are aiming to build the scheme in the spring of 2023.

Useful learnings from Melbreak Community Energy

Community Hydro schemes take a long time to develop as there are so many stakeholders that need to be engaged and consulted. Firstly, the land owners need to be keen to work with a group. The Buttermere scheme is a 'high head' scheme, which means that it has a small dam at the upper reach of the river/ beck and an intake which diverts a percentage of the water from the stream into a pipe or 'penstock'. This penstock then runs alongside the river, in the case of Buttermere, 660m. This pipe will either be buried or camouflaged. The pipe then ends at the turbine, which is housed in a small shed-like building before the water is returned to the river.

Consent and legal agreements must be obtained from any landowners were access is required, or where the pipe crosses their land. At Buttermere we have had to engage and work with 4 land owners. we also need an abstraction licence from the Environment Agency, planning permission for the turbine house and engagement with the community and with the owners of the local grid, Electricity North West. It often takes about 4 years to develop a hydro project, but then with good operation and maintenance, it can operate for 60 plus years.

We have a strong working group that meets regularly via Zoom to make sure the project keeps momentum and to enable us to progress actions. We have used the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) grant to pay consultants to support our aspirations and we will raise the capital finance through undertaking a Community Share Issue.

This project will offer a low impact, low visibility renewable energy scheme generating low carbon electricity for the community of Buttermere, one of the most beautiful areas in the Lake District.

Rural Cumbria has many villages on oil and the grid will struggle to meet the increased demand of electricity caused by the increasing of numbers of people who need to transition to heat pumps when they come off oil. The increased numbers of electric vehicles needing to be charged will put further pressure on the grid. Currently the Grid cannot support an electric vehicle charge point, but the addition of the hydro will mean there is sufficient capacity to allow a charge point be to be installed.

Melbreak Community Energy's metrics

kWh of renewable electricity produced.
CO2 emissions saved.
Installing an Electric Vehicle Charge point.

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Action Area

Renewable Energy



Response to climate crisis





Business, Community, less than 9 people

Shared by

North West Net Zero Hub

Updated Feb, 2024

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