Planning permission has been granted for a micro hydro scheme on the River Don at Kelham Island in Sheffield, despite the fact that it will generate enough electricity to power just 20 homes per year, provided there is enough rainfall and the scheme is managed and operated with maximum efficiency. The scheme in Sheffield is not unique - many thousands of sites across the UK have been identified as 'suitable' for micro hydro development and they are being universally sold as a serious 'green' alternative, a key part of Britain's energy future and a lucrative 'community-based' investment that will help power the nation, paying sustainable dividends to those willing to part with their cash. This blog is a public resource designed to demonstrate the negative ecological impacts of 'low-head' or 'run-of-river' micro hydro schemes and asks why UK taxpayers are funding their development despite the fact that the evidence from the world over is that they do far more environmental damage than good.

Watch the film, 'Kelham Island Hydro', and ask whether what boils down to be a few kettles' worth of hydro-generated electricity is proportionate to the decimation of our little-understood and very fragile river ecosystems.

If you have problems viewing the film from here, please view on Vimeo or watch on Google where you can also download to your pc.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Slicing Up Our Fish For a Mere Drop of Hydropower

Here's a comment from Charles Clover in The Sunday Times, made back in November 2011, rightfully shocked at the 'fish kill allowance' of a hydro-scheme on the River Trent. In 'Slicing up our fish for a mere drop of hydropower', Clover says, 'one water power scheme on the Trent is allowed to kill 110 fish a day - including salmon and sea trout, of which the river has vanishingly few', and he goes on to say how 'fish-kill' limits are not enforceable in practice. Its worth noting that this particular scheme - Gunthorpe Weir - isn't actually in place yet although licences were granted in 2010 (this is the same scheme referenced in The Spectator article).

David Mann of hydro-consultancy firm, 'Mannpower', said this of permissible fish kills in a comment published on this blog in February 2012, 'I do understand your position and desire to alert people to the potential for problems to arise with hydro schemes, and along with others in the industry, were surprised that the EA issued a licence permitting a limited 'fish kill'. Strange that the leading hydro-consultancy firm in the country was unaware that EA had granted a licence which allows the killing of up to 10 salmon and sea-trout, or 100 coarse fish, brown trout, eels, and lampreys, per day, almost two years previously! Indeed one would hope that EA are working very closely with Mannpower in developing the long overdue Hydropower Good Practice Guidelines (which were due to be published at the beginning of 2012).

Clover's article concludes:

'History says that we once had to alter our rivers to grind flour. Superficially it seems reasonable to do it again to fight climate change. But England is a fairly flat country that isn’t very wet, so the potential gains from small-scale hydro are insignificant - a maximum of 0.5% of electricity demand - and the ecological costs are high. I have no doubt that a look at the costs and benefits would convince us to scrap subsidies for small­scale hydro, and put the money into solar instead.'


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  2. There is no way that micro hydro can supply more than a very small percentage of electricity demand. However, one wonders about the veracity of Charles Clover's research - the "0.5% of electicity" - try http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/~dcurtis/NETA.html but then again he's an acolyte of Prince Charles eh?

    English rivers for the most part have managed flows (weather dependent) - winding the clock back to pre-Norman (actually pre-Roman) Britain isn't an option - but there is a trade off to be had - the micro hydro power movement has been poisoned by the ludicrous subsidy regime the "eco activists" have scaremongered into existence which is emboldening chancers to bung turbines in willy-nilly and lie about the potential benefits just as much as windmills and solar...

    The fitting of inappropriate turbines and badly designed fish passes is a matter for the licencing authority - The Environment Agency whose incompetence and bureaucratic toxicity is the stuff of legend.

    Small hydro has been working for years quietly and without subsidy. They're like having an oil well in the garden - not everybody can have one.

    If a hydro scheme actually improves the situation on a watercourse - which isn't unheard of - then surely one can not sensibly complain.

    Balanced schemes are possible - as ever investors are out to get maximum return... it's the job of the licencing authority to balance the interests of all parties. It is transparently foolish however to oppose everything. A happy unsubsidised medium must be found.

    Peddling lurid stories about universal fish choppers is just stupid as is subsidising windmills and solar panels.