How do hydropower systems work?
All water will flow downhill due to the force of gravity. This means that it has a ‘potential’ energy. This energy can be used to create electricity in a turbine. The amount of power produced will depend on the amount of water available and the height that the water has to fall. The greater the height and the more water there is flowing through the turbine, the more electricity can be generated.
Find out more about different kinds of technology at the British Hydro Association website.
The benefits of hydro systems
• Cut your electricity bills
A hydro system will usually generate power 24 hours a day. This will usually be more power than you need for your property and so you can sell the excess to the Grid.
• Be paid to generate energy
If the correct turbine is installed that complies with the Feed in Tariffs, you will be paid for all of the electricity that you produce, as well as for any surplus electricity you sell back to the grid.
• Cheap heating and hot water
A hydro system will probably generate more electricity than you need for lighting your home and powering your electrical appliances, so you can use the excess to heat your home and your hot water too.
• A cheaper option for off-grid homes
Installing a hydro system can be expensive, but in many cases it’s less than the cost of getting a connection to the National Grid if you don’t already have one.
Will hydropower work for me?
You will need to have a suitable water source and to have enough water to run the system. In most case, you will probably need to obtain a licence from the rivers authority to use the water. This will depend on the flow rate of the river or stream at different times of the year. You will need to use an expert to decide if your site is suitable.
If there is a good hydro resource in or near your community it might be worth developing it as a community energy project, rather than as a system to supply just one home.
It is very difficult to give advice on the cost of a hydro system. This is because each site is different. You might be able to install a 5kW system for as little as £25,000. However each site is different. Maintenance costs are usually low as hydro systems are very reliable.
Savings and income
You will earn Feed in Tariff payments for each kW of power you produce. You will also save the cost of any electricity that you do not buy from the Grid. You can also be paid for any excess you send to the Grid.