What is the potential for hydropower within existing water infrastructure?
The water industry is the fourth most energy-intensive sector in the UK economy. Reducing the industry's energy costs, which have risen 159% since 2004, and cutting its carbon emissions are high priorities, but ensuring a continuous supply of water remains the primary objective. Can water companies generate hydropower without affecting water pressure within distribution networks and compromising supply to consumers?
Energy can potentially be recovered at many locations within the water infrastructure: at source reservoirs or water treatment works; at break pressure tanks (BPTs) or pressure reducing valves in the supply network; and at the end of the line at wastewater treatment plants. Currently, excess pressure is simply wasted at such sites. In the Hydro-BPT project, researchers at Bangor University and Trinity College Dublin are working with the water industry to quantify the potential for energy recovery in the water infrastructure in regions of Wales and Ireland.
Examples of energy recovery through hydropower installations already exist: the majority of these are in the region of 100 kW, and generate in excess of £100,000 per annum, reducing CO2 emissions by over 400 tonnes. However, the Hydro-BPT team has identified that most energy recovery sites in the water infrastructure fall into the lower end of the hydro spectrum, with the majority being in the micro (5-25 kW) category. The potentially lengthy payback for individual projects of this scale may make investment unviable. The Hydro-BPT project is therefore examining the feasibility of micro-hydropower (MHP) installations on an industry-wide basis. It is also assessing the environmental (carbon) payback period.
The Hydro-BPT project is providing a technical assessment of MHP turbine technology, a life cycle assessment of its environmental impacts, a GIS database of all energy recovery sites in Wales and Ireland, and a collaboration model for implementing MHP in practice.
In Ireland, BPTs with the potential to generate as little as 13 kW have been shown to be financially viable. Rhys Lewis, Process Science Manager for Welsh Water said: “We have many break pressure tanks fitted which fit this criteria. Recovering energy fits perfectly with Welsh Water’s strategy to reduce its carbon footprint.”
The project will focuses on North and West Wales, and Eastern Ireland; before being rolled out to other areas. The project is exploring new opportunities to make further use of our expertise in future enterprises.Add Pingback