Characterisation of the field
Hydropower or Hydroelectric power defines the generation and distribution of electricity derived from the energy of moving water or water pressure. Hydropower accounts for around 21 of the world s electrical generating capacity, currently producing around 1650MW of power in the UK, with an additional 2788MW from pumped storage. However, recent surveys have shown a further 2GW of potential capacity in the UK remaining.
Hydropower can be broken down into dams, run-of-the-river schemes and pumped storage. Dams involve the impoundment of a volume of water which can be used for energy extraction at any chosen time; run-of-the-river schemes involve the harnessing of energy from the natural flow of water in river systems and pumped storage involves the use of two catchments at a head difference where generation can take place when required and pumping in reverse when excess energy is available. The technologyrequired for effective hydropower schemes is based largely around the use of turbines which are developed to run at high efficiencies at a specific operating head and rate of flow or discharge. In general, where there is a large head and a low discharge such as large dams, Pelton turbines are most efficient and with a low head and a high discharge such as run-of-the-river schemes, Kaplan turbines are used. For intermediate head and discharge values, Pelton turbines or Crossflow turbines operate at higher efficiencies. A useful tool for hydropower development is LUREG s (Lancaster University Renewable Energy Group) Hydro Resource Evaluation Tool, also showing the turbine designs which will perform best at given heads and flow rates.
The first known reference to harnessing power from moving water was by the Greek poet Antipater of Thessaloniki in the first century B.C. who describes the freedom from toil of the young women using small hand mills to grind corn with the use of an “Overshot” vertical water wheel. From the 1700s onwards, major improvements were made to water wheel designs. From 1752 to 1759, John Smeaton conducted a series of experiments on model water wheels, publishing a paper describing the efficiency of overshot wheels over other designs. The first water turbine was invented by the French experimenter Benoit Fourneyron and patented in 1832. Tests showed that Fourneyrons’ turbines converted as much as 80 of the energy from water into useful mechanical output and were used in many factories around the time.
Many turbine designs followed this, including the Francis Turbine developed by James Bicheno Francis in 1848 and Uriah Boyden as an improvement on the Boyden Turbine. In 1856, The Vortex Turbine No. 1 was developed by Professor James Thomson of Queens College and manufactured by Williamson Bros (now Gilkes) to convert the energy from moving water into electricity. Later on, in the late 1870’s, Lester Pelton developed the first impulse turbine, the Pelton Wheel, utilising the kinetic energy of the water instead of the pressure or weigh of a stream, and able to achieve efficiencies in excess of 90 . In 1913, Victor Kaplan developed the Kaplan turbine as an evolution of the Francis Turbine. 1919 saw the invention of the Turgo Impulse turbine by Gilkes of Kendal, Cumbria. The design and manufacture of Small Hydro turbines continued right up until the early 60s, primarily for private developers to produce regular energy for the expanding industrial activities and growing village populations.
Over the following two decades, small hydro activity decreased and virtually disappeared, being replaced by medium to large scale hydro schemes driven by large electricity companies, and equipping the majority of medium and large hydro schemes found in Europe today.
In recent years however, since 1980, small hydro has reappeared strongly in many countries, complimented by political support and incentives creating attractive investments. With the recent increase in investment returns from small-hydro projects, manufacturers are driving towards developing low cost, short delivery time, reliable and serviced small hydro products. Work is focussed on high quality product using new technology for research, development and design that allow cost reductions of turbines and associated equipment without loss of quality, performance or reliability.
Hydropower basic and applied research covers a vast scope of disciplinary inputs. It includes Mechanical, Civil and Electrical Engineering and focuses around turbine and generator development, transformer and power electronics, fluid dynamics, construction as well as environmental and economic aspects.
Recent research focuses on the analysis of the environmental implications of hydropower schemes bringing Environmental and Sustainable engineering into the range of disciplinary inputs.
Although research into hydropower development has been active for over a century, current research and development efforts are an essential tool for continual sustainable hydropower development. Large hydropower schemes, particularly dams have many negative environmental impacts such as reduction of water availability, inundation of ecosystems as well as having low public acceptance, high initial investment and long approval and construction cycles. Further challenges include dam safety and emergency action planning as well as the rehabilitation of old dams. These problems indicate many research and development challenges, however the misconception that large hydropower is a mature technology means implementation of any advancements is slow with insufficient investment.
Small hydropower schemes such as run-of-the-river are recognised as one of the most cost effective means of producing clean, renewable electricity with higher efficiency and reliability than wind, solar and ocean energy. The energy payback ratio for run-of-the-river hydro is in the region 170-267, by far the highest of any other energy generation technology. There is currently ongoing extensive research into low head hydro power technology, improving efficiencies and outputs of turbines. However low head hydro applications remain high cost. Research challenges for small hydropower include: Low head turbine development; investment cost reduction; environmental impacts (such as impact on migratory fish); grid connection difficulties and design of intakes in sediment carrying rivers.
Applied research and development carried out by Small Hydro companies is focussed on developing new simplified designs using new technology for research and development, design and manufacture of turbinesand associated equipment. The primary goal is development of small hydro products which are low cost with a fast delivery without compromising quality and performance.
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Table 2.1: UK Capabilities
The UK’s capabilities vary widely within the Hydropower industry.
For many years, UK companies have been global leaders in turbine manufacture, consultancy and assessment running projects throughout Europe and the rest of the world. The consultancy and feasibility analysis sector is world renowned in the hydropower field. The UK holds a high global market share in the research and development as well as supply of hydropower technology and materials. With the limitedpotential for large hydropower schemes in the UK, the commissioning is led by large EU and American companies however, with the high potential for low-head small hydro power plants; it is a growing market, with UK involvement in small scale hydro manufacturing, research and development and holding a dominant position in global hydropower consulting
Table 2.1: UK Capabilities
Table 3.1: Research Funding | Table 3.2: Key Research Providers
Basic and applied strategic hydropower research is largely university lead and includes the mapping of hydropower resources, the development of turbine technology on a variety of scales, hydrodynamic modelling, the effects of hydropower on the environment, using hydropower to provide electricity to isolated rural areas, combining hydropower with irrigation, cavitation, turbulence and the economic and development considerations of a variety of hydropower schemes.
Significant fundingwas previously from the Joule Centre for energy research and development in partnership with North West Universities as well as commercial organisations and stakeholders involved in the energy industry. The centre aims to increase the regions research capabilities in sustainable energy technologies and provided important funding towards hydropower technologies such as the development of the North West Hydro Resource Model in collaboration with the Lancaster University Renewable Energy Group (LUREG).
There is also a large amount of funding provided by the UK Research Councils such as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), all under the Research Councils UK Energy Programme investing more than £530 million and building on a £360 million investment over the past five years, towards research and skills to pioneer a low carbon future. Many of the programmes and projects are organised and run by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).
Table 3.1: Research Funding
Table 3.2: Key Research Providers
Table 4.1: Research Funding | Table 4.2: Key Research Providers
Key research funding is provided by energy companies such as EDF, Scottish Power and Esk Energy supporting the development of sustainable energy resources in the UK. Significant funding is also available from large utilities throughout the UK. The Carbon Trust also provides key funding for sustainable energy applied research projects, contributing up to 500K or 60 of project costs. This has all formed part of an incentive to increase the number of small-hydropower plants throughout theUK, by providing funding towards site development costs as well as research and development into the technology to improve sustainability, reduce installation costs, improve efficiencies etc.
Applied research and development has also been aided by funding provided by the UK research councils such as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), to improved public awareness of sustainable technology, particularly hydropower in rural areas of the UK.
Table 4.1: Research Funding
Table 4.2: Key Research Providers
Table 5.1: Demonstration Funding Programmes | Table 5.2: Major Demonstration Projects
Although there are many low and high head hydropower schemes in operation throughout the UK, very few are used for the purpose of demonstration.
During the 1950’s many large scale hydropower schemes were built in Scotland and Wales, however, being a mature technology even at the time meant demonstration was not necessary. The potential for new large hydropower schemes in the UK is rather limited at present due to the lower availability of commercially attractive sites as well as environmental constraints. However, Dinorwig Power station in Wales, commissioned in 1984, has been included as a large demonstration project for pumped storage as it is the largest of its kind in Europe and when commissioned, was regarded as one of the world’s most imaginative engineering and environmental projects.
Apart from a few exceptions, there has been virtually no large hydropower development for the past half 50 years, until the recent construction of the Glendoe Hydro Power Plant on the river Tarff, more than 600m above Loch Ness. Commissioned in 2009 and generating up to 100MW, the plant could potentially power a city the size of Glasgow, however due to a rock fall later in that year, the plant has been out of service until around 2012 when repairs are expected to be completed.
The very first VLH (Very Low Head) turbine delivered its first kW to the public network at the MJ2 Millau demonstration site in the South of France in2007. This site remains a low-head hydropower demonstration site and although similar sites (on a smaller scale) have been developed in the UK, few are for demonstration purposes. There are however, current proposals for demonstrations sites such as the Ruswarp Weir on the river Esk, which will operate using a fish-friendly Archimedes Screw turbine of approximately 50kW. Newmills Hydro are also currently constructing a high-head demonstration and testing facility in Larne, County Antrim, Ireland.
There has, however been recent developments of small hydropower sites in rural locations which not only are able to sell power to the grid, but demonstrate the use of hydropower as a renewable technology. The UK’s first Archimedean screw turbine was installed at Howsham Mill, provided by Mann Power Consulting Limited in 2006. The old mill site has been developed into an environmental study centre, demonstratinghydropower generation from both Archimedean screw turbines as well as an undershot water wheel. This project has inspired further development of small hydropower sites such as Heron Mill in Beetham and Torrs Hydro in New Mills.
There are currently numerous small and large hydropower sites throughout the UK, although not all are used for demonstration purposes. An up to date record of all the hydropower installations within the UK is provided by the British Hydropower Association. A number of these sites which not only generate a renewable energy source, but have or aim to effectively demonstrate the use of hydropower technology can be found in Table 5.2.
Funding for small schemes such as these are largely community lead, with grants provided by the local authorities and development agencies as well as from community investment. There is also significant funding available fromlarger bodies such as the Carbon Trust, Large energy companies such as Esk Energy as well as funding for sustainable development within UK national park regions available from Defra through the Sustainable Development Fund.
Table 5.1: Demonstration Funding Programmes
Table 5.2: Major Demonstration Projects
Table 6.1: Research Facilities and Assets
There are a number of research facilities in the UK for testing of large and small hydropower. This is largely focussed around turbine testing for new low head high discharge turbine technology as well as development of existing turbine designs.
Table 6.1: Research Facilities and Assets
The Energy Technology Centre (ETC) is a national centre of excellence playing a pivotal role in the development, demonstration and commercialisation of low carbon and renewable energy technologies.The facility offers a range of test and development options including static, dynamic and cyclic loading test regimes. The ability to provide bespoke test rig configurations is of particular value to the marine sector where novel designs require tailored solutions. Facilities include:
Table 7.1: Networks
There are a number of Hydropower networks in the UK which work on a national or international level to promote the interest of hydropower. This can be in the form of publishing guides to installing small hydropower plants (ESHA), promoting suppliers of hydro plant equipment and providing a link to trade as well as linking with universities and R&D departments to provide funding and aid the transfer of knowledge. Networks such as the BHA, primarily a trade association, not only represents the interests of the UK hydro industry, but coordinates events and marketing opportunities for members, promoting hydropower to the government and funding agencies as well as providing expert technical advice and support.
Table 7.1: Networks
BHA has clear objectives, enabling specific outcomes in line their vision. They are to be a vehicle for:
The Renewable Energy Centre is an effective channel through which you can
The programme seeks to develop the cross border region and
Issues such as sustainable development, environmental protection, climate change and research and development require a coordinated response and can be more successfully addressed through intervention on a cross-border basis than at national level.
Table 8.1: EU Framework Programmes
Table 8.1: EU Framework Programmes
Table 9.1: International Activities
There are a number of international hydropower networks in which the UK plays a part. These span from international organisations such as the International Hydropower Association, founded under UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme and comprised of nearly 100 corporate members worldwide, to research consortiums such as the UK-China Joint research consortium on Sustainable Power Supply. There are also Implementing Agreements such as the International Energy Agency (IEA)Hydropower Agreement to promote the recognition of hydropower worldwide as a sustainable resource and advance the development of new and existing hydropower. Other International research networks such as Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) has hydropower-focussed research ongoing, and Energy for Development is researching the use of small hydropower as a power source for third world rural communities.
Table 9.1: International Activities
UK-China Joint Research Consortium on Sustainable Electric Power Supply