14th-century Irish castle embraces 21st-century green tech

24 Nov 2011

The new hydro turbine technology is installed at Shane's Castle earlier this year

Northern Ireland’s Shane’s Castle demesne, which hosts the annual Planetlove dance festival, has updated its original hydro system installed in 1900 with 21st-century hydro technologies. The hydro system is set to save at least 840 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually and has the potential to power more than 260 houses in the area with clean electricity.

Poised on the shores of Lough Neagh near Randalstown in Co Antrim, Shane’s Castle was built in 1345. The demesne covers 2,600 acres and is the family seat of the O’Neills of Clandeboy who are known for their environmental initiatives.

The castle itself is in ruins due to a fire in 1816 that wiped out everything except the family papers.

According to Library Ireland, the castle derives its name from Shane O’Neill, John the Proud. He was assassinated at a banquet at the instance of the Lord Deputy, who kept his head spiked for months on the tower of Dublin Castle. Based on folklore, the demesne is also thought to have a resident banshee.

The River Main flows through the grounds and is crossed by an ornamental bridge, connecting the grounds with the deer park. The remaining structure, including a unique Camellia House designed by John Nash, is still a prominent feature. The demesne has a rich variety of flora and fauna, including a herd of fallow deer that have been resident there for many years.

Shane's Castle updated hydro system in 2011

The updated hydro system at Shane’s Castle is now up and running

A hydro first for the island

This hydro project at Shane’s Castle is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland. Rated at 214 kilowatts, this is the largest single Archimedean Screwgenerator ever installed on the island.

The O’Neills originally installed a hydro turbine back in 1900. This year the latest generation of the O’Neills decide to replace the original hydro turbine that was used to power the estate before mains electricity was introduced to Shane’s Castle in the 1950s.

The new turbine was designed by Hydroplan and the Archimedean Screw (the actual turbine) equipment, which has also been proven to be fish-friendly, was supplied by Mann Power Consulting based in Yorkshire, in the UK. Irish company Eco Evolution, in association with Mann Power, installed the massive machine at Shane’s Castle earlier this year. The scheme was commissioned during the summer and it is now fully operational.

Rated at 214 kilowatts, the hydro turbine is predicted to save at least 840 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually by generating clean, green electricity.

Potential to power 260 houses

According to the O’Neills, the old system was capable of generating a maximum of about 55kW, so the new Archimedean Screw system, with its high efficiency, across a wide range of flows, will have the capability to produce at least five times the amount of energy over the year.

The predicted annual output of the hydro system at the castle is predicted to be 1,300,000 kilowatt hours.

Mary Gethings of Eco Evolution, the Co Wexford company that installed the new hydro system, says an average household uses less than 5,000 kilowatt hours per year, so this hydro scheme has the potential to power more than 260 houses in the locality of Shane’s Castle.

Omagh in Northern Ireland is also embracing hydro technologies.

Omagh District Council recently started work on a hydro project using the weir on the Camowen River, adjacent to Omagh Leisure Complex, to generate electricity through an Archimedean Screw hydro turbine. Rated at 121 kilowatts, the hydro turbine is predicted to save in excess of 133 tonnes of CO2 annually, contributing to the council’s green philosophy.

The hydro scheme is expected to generate sufficient power to meet the needs of Omagh Leisure Complex with excess electricity that’s sold back to the national grid, said Gethings today. Eco Evolution is currently the only company in Ireland specialising in fish-friendly hydro – Archimedean Screw hydro turbine and the traditional water wheel.

Hydro turbine technology being deployed in Omagh

Deploying the hydro turbine system on the Camowen River in Omagh

Mann Power managing director Dave Mann brought the Archimedean screw as a generating turbine into the UK for the first time in 2004. At the time, he commissioned the fish passage studies that were instrumental in persuading the Environment Agency in the UK to accept the technology. Speaking this week, he said the Archimedean Screw turbine provides a fish-friendly alternative to conventional turbines, ideally suited to low-head (1m-15m) sites, and sites with fish-protection issues.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic