A HYDROPOWER scheme, which will generate electricity for decades to come in Warrington while helping to reduce the carbon footprint, will start building work later this year.

Peel Energy - a division of The Peel Group - were granted planning permission by Warrington Borough Council to build the Woolston Weir hydro project on the Mersey.

Three Archimedes screw turbines will be installed along with a new fish pass at Woolston Weir opposite the Woolston Eyes.

The project, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2015, has the capacity to generate up to 500kW of electricity and meet the needs of up to 600 homes.

Council leader Terry O’Neill said he was excited at the prospect of increasing the amount of renewable energy that is generated in Warrington.

He added: “We realise that in order to try and reduce the potential effects of climate change we need to focus on reducing our borough's carbon emissions whilst at the same time protecting the natural environment.

“The Woolston Weir hydro project will use the power of the Mersey to generate zero emission, and clean energy.”

Geoff Settle, chairman of the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum, said the decision to build the weir hydro was a ‘positive move’ but said he would be keeping a close eye on the construction process.

The Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust was set up to monitor the wildlife and sealife in the Mersey during the construction of the new Runcorn and Widnes bridge and for the following 30 years.

Mr Settle said: “It just so happens that the area we will be monitoring covers where the weir hydro is being built so we will be able to check if there are any harmful effects caused by this.”

The scheme aims to create a more ‘ecological diverse and healthier river’, claims a spokesman at Peel Energy.

Officers have previously carried out a number of environmental and technical studies to test if the location is suitable for the small-scale hydropower scheme.

The replacement of the existing fish pass with a Larinier fish pass is expected to improve conditions for migratory fish swimming up the river without disturbing them.

Clr O’Neill added: “We are keen to see more renewable energy projects come forward in Warrington and would be glad to hear from any developers or community groups with big ideas for saving energy.”