The considerable benefits of micro hydro power include the following:
• ‘Fuel-free’ source of power
• Different to large hydro since environmental impacts of installation are negligible.
• Renewable energy source therefore helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and having a net positive impact on the environment.
• Constant generation over long periods unlike wind and solar power
• Good correlation with demand (more hydro energy is available in winter when heating loads are high)
• Long lifetime of systems, typically 25 years or more Low maintenance requirements and running costs
• Reasonable payback for grid -connected systems, often 10 years or less
Where can it be installed?
There are three main types of sites which are particularly worthy of consideration for development:
Historic Water Mills
Water was once used extensively as a source of motive power in the British Isles. Some estimates put the number of old mill sites in the UK as high as 20,000. Government targets for renewable energy and the development of modern, small-scale turbine units now make re-activation of many of these old sites for electricity generation economically worthwhile. A major advantage of these sites is that it is often possible to reuse some of the existing civil structures such as the weir and the leat, thereby reducing the cost of the installation.
Hilly Areas with Spring-Fed Streams
In addition to historic sites, considerable potential exists in many hilly areas of Britain for micro hydro power. Turbines are available which can utilise quite small spring fed streams for power generation if the fall is sufficient. These sites can often be developed at reasonable cost since civil structures associated with large flows of water, such as weirs , are not required.
The UK’s rivers have between them 1,000’s of weirs not linked to mill facility, and many of these could be relatively converted to power generation using Hydro Generation’s low cost modular turbine system.