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.
A large part of this surge in uptake comes from the government’s Feed in Tariff scheme that pays installations for the amount of electricity that is produced. It is aimed at diverting us to a greener future but it also means that companies that invest in green technologies can see a quicker return on investment than they would do otherwise.
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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Feed in Tariff for Commercial Hydroelectricity Schemes
The Feed in Tariff is a government backed scheme whereby anyone who produces electricity can feed it into the National Grid and get paid for the amount they produce. The Feed in Tariff level you get depends on the size and efficiency of your installation and you will have to pay tax on the profits you make, but the benefits are there.
For a 5 kW project you may have to pay in the region of £25-50,000, largely dependent on the installation costs, which will see a payback in about 10 years. A larger, 100 kW system that produces more electricity, would set you back around £350,000 but has the potential to break even in just over five years.
Find out more about the Feed in Tariff for Hydroelectricity.
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 Feed in Tariff.
- 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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