Is river flow sufficient for a hydropower scheme to be viable?
The Environment Agency estimates that in England and Wales hydropower schemes of all sizes could increase from 350 at present to 1200 by 2020, while an analysis of Scotland’s untapped hydropower potential suggests over 2,000 potential schemes in the 100-500kW range.
However, building a business case for small-scale hydropower schemes requires detailed assessment of likely river flow rates throughout the year, since this determines the optimum size and overall economic viability of a proposal.
Building on many years of R&D, researchers at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) developed Low Flows 2000, a software-based decision support tool designed to estimate river flows at ungauged sites and to aid the development of catchment and regional water resources. This software was licenced in 2004 to Wallingford HydroSolutions Ltd (WHS), a spin-off company set up by the CEH researchers that developed the software models.
Example of a small scale hydropower scheme
WHS has continued to build on, and further develop the earlier academic research, releasing new versions of the LowFlows 2000 software (now called LowFlows Enterprise) that deliver both scientific and functional advances. In parallel with this core activity the company has also created a full suite of commercial software products for use by small-scale hydropower developers, including LowFlows 2 (a simplified version of Low Flows Enterprise), HydrA2 (a redevelopment of energy estimation tools within an earlier academic program, HydrA, used in conjunction with LowFlows 2) and CatchmentsUK (for estimating catchment boundaries both for import into LowFlows 2 and many other environmental consultancy applications.)
As a suite, CatchmentsUK, LowFlows 2 and HydrA 2 now provide developers with the resources necessary to simulate and estimate the outputs that can be generated by a proposed hydropower scheme for a variety of turbine configurations, operating conditions, and possible trends in UK regulation.
LowFlows2 is widely licensed by WHS to hydropower developers and consultants and is typically used in the planning of ‘run of river’ hydro schemes in the 100-500kW range. The company believes that flows estimates are used in assessing the feasibility and potential design for the majority of new UK hydropower schemes in this range. Such schemes are typically located in ungauged catchments, where flow data is not available.
The 100-500kW hydropower sector in Scotland alone is predicted to provide an extra 4,800-6,800 man years employment in construction, and 130-175 FTE jobs in maintenance and operation, with potential schemes having an estimated total power rating of 487MW. The suite of WHS software programs is continually updated to meet emerging needs of UK hydropower developers.Add Pingback