Wookey Hole powered by water

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By sophia1980 | Tuesday, March 04, 2014, 11:28

The Wookey Hole Caves tourist attraction is harnessing the power of the River Axe to generate electricity for lighting in the caves and services for guests in the 58-bedroom hotel.

A hydro-generator has been installed to provide green renewable energy for the attraction and in the first week the unprecedented rainfall has ensured a bonus of power.

Daniel Medley, joint owner of the caves said: "We have installed the latest hydro generator on one of the mill races that carry water from the river Axe beneath the historic papermill on the site.

"On average we expect it to generate around one third of all the power needs of the tourist attraction, which includes the hotel. It has exceeded our expectations in the first week generating two thirds of our electricity.

"We are harnessing the natural resources of the Mendip Hills to provide totally green renewable electricity. The generator we have installed is the latest technology but the Domesday Book records that there was a mill on this site in the 1060s so using the power of the water is nothing new for the village of Wookey Hole.

"The Victorian papermill also used water power to create hand-made paper and visitors can still see some of the old equipment as part of the visit. We have transformed the old papermill building into the largest indoor attraction in the South West so there is plenty to do here even if it is raining."

Rain falling on the Mendip hills percolates through the limestone and formed the caves of Wookey Hole. The new turbine has been installed in one of the historic mill races and power generated is being used to create the lighting effects in the caves and power modern technology, such as the flat screen televisions, DVDs, WiFi internet access and hairdryers in the guest rooms of the hotel.

The turbine produces up to 30 kW of renewable electricity depending on the flow in the river and 15 kW on average – enough electricity for 30 homes. The power is generated by a new crossflow turbine that uses up to 360 litres per second falling 12 metres through the original Victorian system of pipes and channels.

There is always a flow through the mill race but the power that can be harnessed varies, dependant on rainfall.

Said Daniel Medley: "To be honest like everyone in Somerset we hope there is a bit less rainfall in the next few weeks and our electricity generation goes down. The attraction has not been affected by the flooding as the caves are actually quite high above the Somerset levels.

"Amazingly the waters in the caves always look quite calm when in fact they are flowing constantly. With the circus show, mirror maze, Victorian arcade and many other attractions all under cover we get visitors all year round."

      

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