A £1m hydroelectric power generator could be built on the River Thames to provide electricity for 200 homes.

Community group Abingdon Carbon Cutters has unveiled its plan to build the power plant at Abbey Meadow between the Mill Stream and the Thames, close to the weir.

The group says the generator could be built in the next two years, which would make it one of the first projects of its type along the length of the Thames.

The project’s design is based on the 5,000-year-old Archimedes screw, which is turned by the water to generate electricity without killing the river’s fish.

Up to three of the twisting turbines could be built at the site.

Spokesman Richard Riggs said: “It is not a new idea, but one whose time has come, and a group of local people have started work on making it a reality.

“It would be very visible as an advert for renewable energy at a place where a lot of people pass by. It could even become a tourist attraction. Generating power for 200 houses is not huge, but part of the larger picture.”

A smaller, similar scheme is already in place in East Hanney, but there are no hydroelectric plants along the length of the Thames.

Plans are already in place for generators at Goring, at Osney Island in Oxford, and at Windsor in Berkshire.

Mr Riggs said: “I would expect the plant at Goring and Streatley to be in front of us because they have been working on it for much longer.

“It is certainly getting easier to get these schemes up and running because the Government are pushing it. The main thing is that it will be a public display of renewable energy in Oxfordshire.”

He said that he hoped it would take between two and three years to gain planning permission and get the go-ahead from the Environment Agency, which must be convinced it would not harm the environment.

The body, which has responsibility for the nation’s rivers, has already ruled out installing the plant at the Abbey Gardens weir in case it increased the risk of flooding. Instead, the water would be channelled out of the Thames, down the three Archimedes screws to generate the electricity, and then back into the river at a lower level.

Mr Riggs said he hoped the £1m needed to build the plant could be raised from grants and fundraising, as well as a share issue to people wanting to buy a stake in the project. He said Government incentives to increase renewable energy made it a very good investment in the