Smaller-scale hydro offers good opportunities

Hydro scheme advantages

  • Long-life schemes – at least 50 years
  • Fewer planning complications than other green technologies
  • Easy maintenance – relies largely on old, proven technology
  • Low annual running costs
  • Seven- to 11-year payback periods 

The vast scope for smaller-scale hydropower schemes in Scotland and other upland areas should not be overshadowed by a few very large-scale projects, according to installer Luke Milner.

Long life and reliable operation were two of the main attractions of hydro schemes, said Mr Milner, who is commercial director at Glen Hydro.

One scheme close to his Blairgowrie base had been running for 90 years and a 50-year life was a reasonable expectation, he said.

Most of Glen Hydro’s installations were feeding into the grid rather than the energy being consumed by the businesses or properties with which they were associated. They were chiefly between 200kW and 500kW, which on a good site produced gross incomes annually of about £180,000 and £310,000, respectively.

A 200kW fully owned scheme required an investment of about £1m, while a 500kW scheme would require about £2m.

“Hydro has been eclipsed in recent years by both onshore and offshore wind in the drive to reach Scotland’s target of achieving 100% of its own electricity requirement from renewables by 2020,” said Mr Milner.

Planners and the industry had worked together in the past few years to make the runs less intrusive. However, grid capacity and connection was a huge challenge in many parts of Scotland, said Mr Milner.