The national leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, visited Whalley Community Hydro to learn more about the innovative community energy project.
She was in Lancashire to raise awareness of the Green Party’s support for community owned, renewable energy, of which she said the Whalley scheme was a great example.
Whalley Community Hydro will be sited on farm land beside the weir on the River Calder.
It is a social enterprise owned by local residents and so far almost £400,000 has been raised by local people buying shares in the project.
The scheme has a £750,000 target and news is expected shortly about a bank loan for the difference, so that the order can be placed for construction to begin in April or May.
Generation of hydro- electricity is expected to begin in August or September, with the income from the electricity sold to the National Grid being used for more renewable energy projects in the local community.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said: “Whalley Community Hydro is a really practical example of how a community can generate energy in a very simple way.
“There’s been a great take-up from local people, showing just how much enthusiasm there is for community-owned energy.
“We’ve heard so much recently about the Government’s support for fracking for shale gas. We’re the only mainstream political party to be opposing this risky ‘dash for gas’.
“What we need instead is exactly this kind of project – communities producing clean, renewable energy – alongside a massive energy efficiency programme. I hope that it provides an inspiration for other communities across Lancashire to follow suit.”
Chris Gathercole, director of Whalley Community Hydro, said: “We’ve been working on this project for four years and it’s fantastic that it’s gained interest from a national figure like Natalie Bennett.
“Local people have been really supportive of the project and it seems that the news has spread.
“Once the plant is operating it will generate 345MWh of electricity – enough to supply the equivalent of more than 100 houses.
“Anyone who’s interested in getting involved can still buy shares and I’d encourage people to join us. They can find out more at www.whalleyhydro.co.uk”