Modern day hydroelectric power is responsible for supplying 16.1% of the world’s power requirements. Hydro power also accounts for a staggering 85% of the world’s renewable energy generation and is therefore a hugely significant player in world energy markets.
Hydro power is one of the oldest methods of generating power. The Domesday Book in 1086 listed approximately 6,000 mills in England, it is not surprising therefore that in 2010 Environment Agency Wales identified 4,112 sites in Wales alone with the potential for developing a hydroelectric scheme.
The development of micro hydro schemes in the UK has been boosted dramatically in recent years as the Government have a legally binding obligation to ensure that 15% of the electricity used in the UK is from a renewable source by 2020.
The Feed in Tariff (FiT) is the financial mechanism used by the government for reaching these targets. The FiT is a generation tariff and a payment is therefore received regardless of whether the electricity is used on site, saving the purchase of electricity from the National Grid, or whether the power is exported to the grid in return for a payment from a Renewable Energy purchaser.
There are two types of hydroelectric scheme and these can be defined as being either “High Head” or “Low Head”. High Head schemes typically involve smaller water courses where a percentage of flow is diverted down the hillside through a pipe; the water then passes through a turbine. Lower volumes of water are needed to create power with high head schemes as the water is constantly gaining momentum and power over a greater duration of time due to the height differential. High head schemes account for the majority of schemes currently being developed by North Wales Hydro Power as the conditions within the Snowdonia National Park for example are much more conducive to High Head Hydro.
Low head schemes typically operate on larger rivers at the location of a weir. The head available for a scheme of this nature may be much lower at perhaps 2-4m however the volumes of water used are much higher in order to create comparable levels of power.
The Environment Agency governs the amount of water which can be abstracted from a watercourse and therefore it is important, at all times, to have consideration for the environmental aspects of the potential scheme and to work with the Environment Agency and the Local Planning Authority through
the pre-application process. North Wales Hydro Power have built strong relationships with these respective parties and we have a good understanding of how best to gain the required permissions.