Water Mill cooperative hydropower projects backed by the european commission

artcile from FHE and FDMF in the 14th issue of TIMS E-news

There has been a lot of enthusiasm over the RESTOR Hydro project in France, mill owners, municipalities and associations have requested information on the project and dozens of mills have been proposed for the pilot site restorations.

France has an impressive water mill heritage with a sizeable hydro power potential which is just waiting to be exploited and benefit local heritage appropriation by creating cultural, social or tourist activities. To this day, there is no national index of this potential in France, or inventory of existing mills other than local and fragmented documents. Neglected and ignored, micro hydro power remains an asset to the energy transition. Hydro power is the most productive and competitive renewable energy; 1MW of hydro power provides 4000 hours/year (against 2200 hours for wind turbines and 1000 hours for solar power).

photo articleThe Water Framework directives in France will certainly be challenging. River classification in two lists will impose a ban (list1) on all new river obstructions and restorations or, (list 2) the obligation, within 5 years, to restore existing weirs with fish passes.

France Hydro Electricité (FHE) and the French Mill Federation (FDMF), RES- TOR Hydro project partners for France, are striving to limit the river classification decrees which are currently ongoing throughout the country. The classification proposals will be a major drawback for hydro power development.

Small hydro potential in France is evaluated at 1500MW and 5.4 TWh; if the classification proposals are applied, 76% of the small hydro potential will re- main unrealised. Reducing the list 1 classification by 3% would allow developing small hydro power whilst abiding with ecological continuity.

In France, small hydro power (>12MW) represents 7TWh, the equivalent of the consumption of the towns of Lyon and Toulouse put together. The hydro power industry is now perfectly adapted, offering fish friendly technologies, combining both power production and protection of river species and sediment flow. The RESTOR Hydro project will have to adapt to the water framework directives and hopes to overcome other predicable difficulties due to efficient communication and public participation through public shareholding co-ownership hydro cooperatives. A small hydro power citizen cooperative is an asset financially and technically for the success and the lifespan of a project. Also, this project is timely in that it should accelerate upgrading, which often remains a financial difficulty for mill owners.

The French Mill Federation (FDMF) encourages giving a meaning to any mill renovation; a hydro power project is one of the solutions which justify public and private investment. We defend the idea that heritage and modernism work well together and allows the mill heritage to survive in the landscape and local economy (millstone products, hydro power, culture and tourism). Economical niches are sizeable in the present economical situation. Project partner for France (FHE/FDMF): restor.fr@gmail.com

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