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Janet Richardson

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Jun 21, 2024

Read Time : 3 Minutes

Commercial Hydroelectricity Projects in the UK

Renewable technologies are big business at the moment. From solar and wind farms to small and medium sized hydroelectric plants, the incentives are there to make our contribution to cutting down our reliance of fossil fuels a commercial success. 

Hydroelectric systems for commercial use are a sustainable and efficient way to generate electricity. By harnessing the power of flowing or falling water, these systems produce clean, renewable energy with minimal environmental impact. Large-scale hydroelectric plants can supply substantial power to meet commercial demands, reducing dependency on fossil fuels and curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

These systems offer reliable energy production, making them suitable for powering industries, businesses, and urban centers. Hydroelectric projects create job opportunities and stimulate local economies while contributing to grid stability. Although initial setup costs can be high, the long-term benefits in terms of cost-effectiveness and eco-friendliness make them an attractive investment for commercial ventures.

Benefits of Commercial Hydroelectricity Schemes

  • Whilst the scale is different, the benefits for your commercial premises are the same when it comes to hydroelectricity.
  • You get to produce greener electricity that can be fed directly into your business or poured back into the National Grid, earning you a steady income.
  • Hydroelectric systems are relatively low maintenance and can provide your business with a fair return on investment.
     

Find out more about the ecological and financial benefits of hydroelectricity.

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The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)

The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) has been a significant development for commercial hydroelectric systems, revolutionizing how they contribute to the renewable energy landscape. This UK government initiative ensures that businesses operating hydroelectric systems can receive fair payments for excess electricity they export to the grid.

The SEG incentivizes investment in renewable energy, stimulating growth in the commercial hydro sector. By encouraging businesses to harness sustainable hydropower, carbon emissions decrease, and energy security improves. The SEG offers a payment tariff for commercial hydro electric systems up to 5MW. 

Why the National Trust are Leading the Way

One of the commercial ventures that is leading the way in hydroelectricity production is the National Trust, in part because it has access to some prime sites that are suitable for the technology. They have recently installed a £350,000 turbine system in Morden Hall Park in London. The 18 kW system will provide enough power for the equivalent of 18 average homes and uses an Archimedes Screw turbine.

Welsh Water and Commercial Hydroelectricity

Water companies are in a prime position to install hydroelectric technology for many of their sewage and water treatment plants. Strata Florida have started work on installing a 140 kW plant for Welsh Water that will use a Canyon Pelton turbine to produce a capacity factor of between 85 and 95%.

Farmland and Hydroelectricity

Another area that is highly suited to the implementation of hydroelectric technology is our farmland. At over 1,000 feet above sea level, Welsh hill farmer Tegwyn Jones installed a 93 kW hydroelectric system on his property almost ten years ago at a cost of £90,000, and he has recently installed a further 100 kW plant at a cost of £500,000 (the difference is due to the installation at a greater height).

The old installation provides an income of around £15,000 a year and the new one is expected to produce 440,000 units a year which can be sold for 23 pence a unit, providing enough power for 90 homes.

Frequently Asked Questions for Commercial Hydroelectricity

  • Do I need planning permission for commercial hydro? The simple answer is yes you will need planning permission and you will also need to satisfy the requirements of the Environment Agency.
  • How do I determine the cost of a commercial hydroelectric project? There are a number of factors that affect the cost of a project of this kind, the primary one being the type of water supply you have and what system will be most suitable. There are also other important issues such as construction, planning and installation. Find out more here.
  • How does the metering work? You will need a meter that tracks the amount you use and the amount you produce and export to the grid, so that your power company knows how much to pay through the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)
  • What are the maintenance issues for commercial hydroelectricity? For larger systems you will need regular inspections and maintenance to ensure that your plant is working to the optimum and also make sure the surrounding area is protected. Find out more here.
  • When will I see a payback on my hydroelectric installation? This is always difficult to gauge because of the various parameters that are involved which include the location and cost of installation and how much energy you generate. As a general rule, larger producing plants tend to pay back quicker than smaller ones. Find out if hydroelectricity is worth it.
     

Like many renewable power sources, hydroelectricity may well be moving from the large, industrial complexes to smaller, localised micro systems. The difference between this and other technologies is that you need access to fast moving water and a suitable site for installation. But for those who have the finance and the right site, it can provide a valuable renewable resource for a long time into the future as well as offering a significant return on investment.

 

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