Inflatable weirs and hydro-generators

A company set up to bring the River Severn back to life has moved a step nearer installing water-powered generators in inflatable weirs.

The Upper Severn Hydro & Navigation Company, set up last year, aims to restore the importance of the river to its bankside communities by creating a series of weirs to replenish water levels for navigation.

In addition to the benefits to wildlife and habitat, the weirs will be fitted with hydroelectric generating equipment capable of supplying green electricity with no CO2 emissions. The weirs can also be locked, thereby restoring navigability.

At a recent meeting of the company directors were appointed with a brief to “harness the huge power and capacity of the upper River Severn’s under-used water flows by fitting variable height inflatable weirs incorporating hydro-powered generators”.

Company MD Jeremy Coles says: “This represents another positive step in improving the long-neglected Severn corridor for the benefit of all. I look forward to seeing the entire ecology of this magnificent river re-asserting its status whilst simultaneously offering us a green source of power.”

The Severn, Britain’s longest river, runs for some 220 miles from its source in Wales and in the reign of Henry VII had already been a transport artery for many years. Gloucester Quay, for example, is of Roman origin.

Under ancient Royal Charter the Severn was a free navigation as far as Pool Quay near Welshpool with ‘no man haveth the right to levy tolls’. It spawned its own distinctive sailing vessel, the Trow. Worcester, Bewdley, Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury became significant inland ports and all except Bewdley were indicated as such on maps around 1360.

200 years ago the river carried huge quantities of goods but navigational requirements were gradually outweighed by considerations of water supply. In the 1960s the Clywedog Dam was built to control flow but no provision was made for navigational requirements and this once-proud river continued its decline.

This decline has been so profound that towns such as Bridgnorth and Bewdley have all but turned their backs on what once was their most valuable asset.