A CITY centre development is to become the first in the country to include a hydro power generator following the installation of an innovative water turbine.

An Archimedean screw will harvest energy from the River Wear to drive a 100kw generator, capable of supplying 75 percent of the total energy needed at Freeman’s Reach.

The screw was installed today (Sunday, June 1) as part of a carefully co-ordinated operation between the team behind the £27m development and Durham County Council.

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Following its installation, the Archimedean screw will undergo a programme of commissioning works before it begins generating power in the autumn.

Durham County Councillor Neil Foster, cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “This is an exciting and innovative new addition to the environmental footprint for Durham City and I have every confidence it will also prove to be a popular and unique visitor attraction.”

Freeman’s Reach, the new home of National Savings and Investment and Her Majesty’s Passport Office, will open up part of the riverside to visitors for the first time in generations.

With improved tourist amenities, particularly for those arriving by coach, it will offer daytime and evening café and restaurant facilities as well as featuring a new tree lined riverside walk.

There will be a public art installation charting the history of energy generation on the site.

Measuring 13-metres long and weighing 20 tonnes the screw was designed and manufactured by water treatment and power specialists, Spaans Babcock.

It incorporates a ‘fish pass’, which allows aquatic life to travel upstream easily to access the upper reaches of the river, and the hydro-turbine has been designed to generate renewable energy 24 hours a day.

The new turbine will continue the legacy of hydro-power generation at Freeman’s Reach, which dates back more than 800 years to the original medieval Bishop’s Mill.

Throughout the centuries a variety of buildings have benefited from the energy created by the River Wear including the former ice rink, which was powered by a 1930s turbine.

Neil McMillan, director of Carillion Developments, said: “We are pleased to have been able to continue a long tradition of energy generation at Freeman Reach, this 21st Century technology will harness the power of the River Wear for many years to come.

“The Archimedean screw is a really impressive sight and, coupled with the public art installation at the new Energy Centre, they will surely add to Durham City’s rich variety of visitor attractions.”