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Beautiful peaceful centre with
spectacular lake and rivers
... Only a few hours' drive from London

Hydro electricity at the MIll Retreat Centre project



We are in the process of converting the large old Mill wheel to generate green electricity, making the centre self sufficient and carbon Positive i.e generating more energy than we use,  and feeding any excess electricity back into the national grid. The project is a huge challenge and steep learning curve for us all, it will take 3 years, we are half way through now . The old Mill wheel turbine  is an extremely unusual and rare design. It has a vertical axis and the turbine wheel is permanently underwater. Even though it was built 130 years ago the design and efficiency of this turbine is nearly as good as modern design, give or take 10% - an extraordinary feat of the Industrial Revolution. So we are preserving it intact rather than fitting a cheaper newer design.



See Photos below  of old Mill wheel in the middle of being renovated. 


The vertical axis turbine is inside the metal casing and the sits in the bottom of the large "water room" which is then filled by the river,  a bit lake a huge bath, the turbine acts like a huge plug hole at the bottom of the water room,  the river siphons through this hole creating high pressure which turns the turbine inside. It is a very sophisticated and well designed system considering it was made 130 years ago.


Turbine outer casing BEFORE renovation. When we first saw the turbine below, it was difficult to understand how it could or would work. Then we discovered (much later) a void space area below it, after digging out tonnes of mud and junk. See next photo.


Turbine during renovation, new timbers fitted, and discovery of the area below the turbine after Pawel digging out 3 tonnes of mud.
This is where the water flows out of the turbine, into the space below it. 



Turbine blades from underneath




The beginning of the turbine renovation a very slow and painful clean up, it took about 1000 hours just to take it apart it, bolt by bolt. They were completely seized and melded with rust, from having sat on the river bed unused for about 75 years. Each bolt had to be heat treated and cut out with metal grinders one by one. 




Water room with renovated turbine. 




Turbine outer casing after renovation and floor and walls has been lined with metal to create a water sealed room, so the water can only escape through the turbine. ( like a plug hole in a bath)

 We are very excited we got the Mill Wheel turbine spinning for the first time under its own water power!! After over 75 years of sitting dormant and abandoned, it has come back to life. Hurrah.



             canal before renovation                                                                                                                     canal after renovation




Old and ugly corrugated iron metal sides of canal replaced with new brick walls built for sides of canal, and corrugated metal removed. We had to dismantle an old ruined building on our neighbours property, Madame Adell, who kindly donated the bricks, so the new wall would look like it had always been there, and not spoil the beautiful grounds.                                                    



Mill river Sluice gates being renovated with new oak panals, and canal being dammed for canal renovations. 



The next steps now we have got the turbine working, will be to build a gear box and a generator, which will connect the turbine shaft to an electric generator, which will in turn connect to an DC/AC converter, which will then connect into the National grid via a special Electric  2 way Meter. These steps will probably take another 1 to 2 years to research, design and build. I would like to thank Pawel Rel the Mill Retreat caretaker for his amazing hard work and initiative in making this project possible.

Please wish us luck for the next step!



Another challenge we now have to face, is when we raise the water level to the normal operating height for the turbine to work, our neighbours field one mile upstream, starts to flood, ( see photo below of river overflowing its banks into field, the fence is where the river bank is located) so I think it will be a meeting with the Mayor and local farmer and myself and Pawel, to see what solutions we can come up with, and hope other fields/properties further upstream are not also effected! the reason is the river banks have not been maintained, and have eroded over the years, mainly by cattle drinking at the river banks.




We are in the process of designing and getting a bespoke gearbox made, see photo below of the  gearbox plans for the engineering company.

Then next stage will be to buy a electric 3 phase generator and connect it to the below gearbox which in turn connects to the turbine.


we are in negotiation with EFD France getting permits and equipment to connect up to the National electricity grid, but it takes 6 months to 5 years or more and many planning committees later to be completed!

Lucky my French is so poor.

wish us luck.





This is the plan of the water room where the turbine lives.


5.5kw 3 phase generator and gearbox the lights are running off the turbine!