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France installs world first river turbine farm in Lyon

A farm of hydro turbines is to be installed in the Rhône river near Lyon, in a world first that will generate enough power for 400 homes.

The farm of four turbines will be installed over the next few weeks near the commune of Caluire (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes).

Over the next 18 years, it will produce one gigawatt-hour of renewable electricity per year - enough to power over 400 homes - and reduce CO2 emissions by 300 tonnes per year.

The turbines will be linked to the main electricity grid, and begin producing power by the end of 2018.

The farm is said to be the first of its kind in the world, and is a project of French water turbine consortium Hydroquest-Hydrowatt with waterways network group Voies Navigables de France (VNF). It is expected to cost in the region of €1.5m - financed by the local government, European funding and a bank loan.

The turbines will not be visible on the surface of the river, except for the floating barges that form part of the farm, nor will they make any noise or generate any pollution to the river.

The project comes after four years of testing and development near Orléans. The test rig is to be dismantled as the new project is finalised.

The CEO of Hydroquest said: “We were in the research and development stage. But this experimentation allowed us to improve our technology. Now, we are at the commercial stage.”

He explained: “The barges will float like boats, but the turbines are made out of very strong materials that can resist weathering and currents under the water. Just as windmills use wind, the water turbines use water current to turn the machines and produce energy.

“The advantage of a turbine is that it offers a high amount of energy compared to other renewable sources. It produces energy all the time.”

Hydroquest is planning more river turbine farms in the near future, to capitalise on the growing demand for this type of clean energy.

In 2019, it plans to install a €12 million, 39-turbine farm on the Rhône, at the commune of Génissiat in the Ain. It has also announced plans to install a sea turbine in spring next year, in the  Côtes d’Armor region of Brittany.

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