Low cost hydro – can it be done? #fir4future

Tom (left) and Nic discussing the development of a simplified and standardised hydro approach. Yes it must have been a very serious chat!

Nic Wymer an intern from the Centre for Alternative Technology started working with us last week. And his task? Following several community consultations on the large Snowdon hydro the same questions seemed to come out again and again. It usually starts “i have this stream which passes the house. How do i go about finding out about doing a small hydro?” what this showed was a large gap in information and examples for people to take home and implement

Nic’s task is to work with the NT and others and develop a more standardised and easier approach. Resulting in some form of hydro tool kit (documentation, examples, flow chart and so on). Peco (small) hydros can be prohibitively expensive simply because of the cost of the ‘expert’ engineers who are required to help. But having seen a few examples of systems which are ‘good enough’ and seen the cost reductions in a standardised and prefabricated approach this is an area we think we can look into.

Afon Merch (@NTPL Joe Cornish)

But developing a theory and an approach is ‘nice’ part of Nic’s project is to also develop an actual peco hydro to meet certain cost, quality and payback criteria. The ideal is a 5kw system which pays back in under 6 years but lets wait to see. The chosen river for this project is Afon Erch (or Merch) on Hafod y llan. Hafod y Llan is also the site of the 15kw and 650kw hydros. (Nic will be shadowing and be mentored by the engineers we have on site) Hopefully in 18 or so months we will have 3 hydros within 200m of each other. Above all the main driver is to share the information and ‘tool kits as they develop and will be available through this blog. seeing is believing!

Finally as a belt and braces and as a test of usability Tom an NT Building Surveyor from the N West will also be testing the tool kit on another possible peco hydro in the Lake District


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9 Responses to Low cost hydro – can it be done? #fir4future

  1. Keith, this look like really valuable work, but not without its challenges (notably the fact that every river is different). I look forward to your updates in this and hopefully seeing some data.

    • Keith Jones says:

      agree with you.

      want to see if the 80 / 20 rule can be applied. we have well over 200 of these systems on the estate (sub 100kw). I have seen more and more standardisation of these systems. yes we need to understand the nature of the water resource and agree whats available to tailor the system. but at this size a turbine building is a turbine building, prefab weir components, couplings or electrofuse and the list goes on. A hydro is a series of compromises – these need to be simpler. Can we accept 80% of what is possible? May be as long as its less than 50% of the cost and time. seen too many simple systems written off because of bespoke – there must be a simpler way (pipe dream may be but would like to see)

      testing the water as it were

      • Ha! Testing the water indeed! I see entirely where you are coming from. Some templating of planning/EA docs would also cut down costs. Having a modular approach would also mitigate risk – if the system did not work in one location, it could be used (or parts thereof) in another Exciting stuff.

      • Keith Jones says:

        it is interesting that i have been discussing with a few institutions of what to do if you should have ‘say 200 hydros’ and they answer they cam back with is ‘no one in the country could deliver this level at the moment’ hence some of the standardisation work

  2. khummelt says:

    This is a fascinating project. The initial question is one staff at Historic Scotland get asked a lot as well. Looking forward to updates on this one.

  3. khummelt says:

    Fascinating project! The initial question is one which Historic Scotland staff are understandably asked as well. Looking forward to updates on this one.

    • Keith Jones says:

      thanks for this – its has raised a lot of interest. there must be a simpler way that we could get more of these micro peco systems off the ground. thanks and all the best

      • khummelt says:

        There is informal interest from the Technical Team, specifically in applications that suit redundant mill lades- which we know will never achieve modern domestic requirements, but if a low voltage dc output is considered a radiant heating mat may be suitable to augment existing domestic heating arrangements.

      • Keith Jones says:

        we have a few mills in N Ireland we are working on and a 50kw hopefully going in on Quarrybank mill this year. Turbines on mill races can be very expensive per kw but can also have high capacity factors esp if you go for small systems. have you considered a remote PV system for doing the same job? esp if you only want low quality energy

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