Barley Bridge Weir Hydro Scheme: An Innovation History

February 2012, Sabine Hielscher

The Barley Bridge Weir Hydro-Electric scheme is a community-led energy project based in Cumbria in the village of Staveley. At this point in time, the group consists of eight volunteers (such as a local fisherman, a hydro engineer, a retired surveyor and other community members). This innovation history traces the development of Barley Bridge Weir Hydro-Electric scheme from its initiation in autumn 2007, through to its expansion into the Sustainability & Energy Network in Staveley (SENS), to its current status (in November 2011) of being put on hold by the group. Despite the groupʼs best efforts, they have struggled to overcome various hurdles critical for the continuation of the scheme. One of the main issues has been to determine the ownership of Barley Bridge Weir, which is central to this community-led hydro project.

Barley Bridge Weir Innovation History

CISE is conducting 12 in-depth case studies of community energy projects, to better understand how these innovations emerge, develop, spread and grow.

Each case study is written up as an ‘Innovation History’, allowing participants to explain their own individual stories, with researcher reflections and insights inserted into the text.

Ro Randall – founder of Carbon Conversations – stated how the innovation history approach, and conceiving of Carbon Conversations as an ‘innovation’, had made her think about things in a new way. She says:

“Reading your draft has helped me reflect on the relationship between innovation/innovators and the networks of people and support that give them space to innovate. Innovation often gets seen as having an ’author’, rather than being a group or network product and although I was pivotal, Andy’s role was absolutely key. I could have innovated my socks off but without his technical expertise – from knowledge of the science and technology, through to his ability to manage the finances and website – little would have happened. Beyond that there has been a much larger network of people who have contributed to the project and perhaps don’t get recognised as they should. Maybe there are inevitable tensions between innovative projects and the environments that nurture them. Good reflective practice can certainly be helped by having people from the outside taking a look – they see different things, offer other frameworks and that can be really useful.”

We hope you enjoy our Innovation Histories, we will make them available here throughout 2012 as they are completed.