9 Micro Hydro
15.9.1 Introduction
Of the total renewable energy generated in the UK, 0.8% is from small scale hydro (<5MW), and 6.7%
from large scale hydro (>5MW). Within the large scale hydro pumped storage schemes are included
which are used to compensate for large disturbances on the network by providing back up power, and
also to provide time shifting of demand. Of course pumped storage systems are also users of energy,
consuming 1% of the UK’s supply in the pumping process.

The main advantage of hydro schemes is that they provide a relatively constant and predicted able
output of energy, as opposed to the more weather dependent forms of renewable energy, although
obviously drought and flooding will affect the systems.

Hydro schemes have provided energy for the milling of flour and in the early part of the industrial
revolution for driving machinery. These sites may well be suitable for the fitting of modern micro-hydro
15.9.2 Evaluation of hydro resource
The power in a moving body of water can be easily worked out using the equation


P = Power [Watts]
? = density of water (1000 kg/m
g = acceleration due to gravity (9.81 m/s
Q = volume of water passing per second [m
h = height between inlet and outlet of system [m]

Figure 18: Hydroelectric system

So, for example, a flow rate of 1m
/s dropping a height of 5 meters would result in a power output of;
P = 1000 * 9.81 * 1 * 5 = 49kW.

So assuming this output is constant, over a year this would generate 430MWh.

When evaluating the available resource, the flow rate will be influenced by rainfall, so an annual
evaluation of flow rates would be beneficial, and while estimating the volume, knowledge of the river
contours is essential. It should also be considered how much of the river can be diverted for the
generation of electricity. If the river is tidal, this should also be considered in the evaluation of flow

There are a number of different water take off configurations, including; dams, pipes, penstocks, weirs,
canals, reservoirs. The effects of energy losses due to; bends, friction, turbulence, contraction/expansion
and valves all need to be evaluated.

15.9.3 Cost
It is difficult to define the cost of hydro systems as simply as the other renewables in this document, as it
is incredibly site specific. However, according to the Energy Savings Trust for low head systems (not
including the civil works), costs may be in the region of £4,000 per kW installed. For systems greater
than 10kW peak output the cost per kW would be less.

Medium head systems cost about £10,000 and then about £2,500 per kW up to around 10kW. Therefore
it can be said a typical 5kW domestic scheme might cost £20-£25,000. Clearly larger systems will cost
less per kW.
15.9.4 Building Design Considerations
Small hydro schemes, as would be encountered in the North East, are likely to be integrated into
existing water mill structures. The main considerations of the system are the noise, the safety
implications and the implications of flood water damaging the building. All of these items should be
considered by the system designer.

15.9.5 Planning Considerations
A micro-hydro scheme will need a number of different permissions, including planning (from the local
authority) and water extraction/return permits (from the Environment Agency).

General points to look for are:
 Water extraction licence
 Wildlife [fish, plant, birds, wildlife] issues – How much will be extracted & what mitigation is
being made to protect the local wildlife, in particular change of habitat, noise. loss of vegetation
downstream sediment deposition. If the planning authority considers the system to have a
significant impact on the environment the planning application must be accompanied by an
Environmental Statement.
 Extraction rights & land ownership (i.e. who owns the river bed & the rights – this need not be
the mill owner)
 Water quality & potential contamination (or mitigation) issues
 Agriculture & forestry if new dams are built
 Landscape (visual amenity) impacts
 Planning permission for the new structures
 Public opposition
 Environmental impact - CO
 Its demonstration & educational value