An automated system, powered by solar energy and hydrogen fuel cells is bringing a much needed solution to the Environment Agency's water management on the river Deben in Suffolk.

Developed by BOC and Norfolk based control system specialists, Dabbrook Services, the water management system monitors and controls the level of the river at White Bridge near the 12th century Ash Abbey and ruins of St Mary's Priory.

Until now, the manually operated gates at the White Bridge sluice have relied on workers from the Environment Agency to physically open and close them depending on the water level. But if the timing is not accurate, the area can be left vulnerable to either flooding or running the river dry.

Whilst automated systems eliminate the problem of accuracy, they require electrical power and the remoteness of the water channel meant getting electricity from a distant grid, which would have been costly and environmentally demanding.

Stewart Dow, BOC hydrogen energy and fuel cell manager said: “Solar power was an alternative, but it can be hampered by the limited hours of winter sun or because the site is shaded by trees.

“The hybrid system developed by BOC and Dabbrook is an ideal solution. The hydrogen fuel cell provides a small amount of energy to carry the system through the challenging winter months, meaning that a much smaller number of solar power cells are needed.“

The system is being trialled on the river Deben for 12 months to determine how much fuel is required, how much power can be generated and the practicalities of using this new type of duel system for off-grid sites.

For further information:
BOC Group