Hydro Electricity

Hydro Electricity

Hydroelectricity systems generate electricity from running water - usually a small stream.

Small (micro) systems can produce enough electricity for lighting and electrical appliances in an average home.

Hydroelectricity systems are also called hydro power systems or just hydro systems.

How do hydro power systems work?

Hydro power systems use running water to turn a small turbine which generates electricity. The faster the water flows and the more water there is, the more electricity can be generated.

The amount of electricity a system actually generates depends on how efficiently it converts the power of the moving water into electrical power.

The benefits of hydro systems are: -

  • Cut your carbon footprint: hydroelectricity is green, renewable energy and doesn't release any harmful carbon dioxide or other pollutants.
  • Cut your electricity bills: hydroelectricity is free, so once you've paid for the initial installation you'll reduce or even eliminate your electricity bills.
  • A lower cost option: installing a hydro system can be expensive, but in many cases it's less than the cost of getting a connection to the National Grid.
  • Cheap heating and hot water: a hydro system may generate more electricity than you need for lighting your home and powering your electrical appliances - so you can use the excess to heat your home and your hot water too.

To tell if a hydro system is right for you, there are a few key questions to consider:

  • Is there a river or steam close to your home? You'll need access to a fairly fast flowing water course, and the right to build around it.
  • Does the water flow vary significantly during the year? If so, the hydro system may not be able to supply you with all the electricity you need during dry months. If you're not connected to the electricity grid, you'll need a backup power system.
  • Do you want to sell excess energy? Hydro systems can be connected to the National Grid if a suitable connection point is available. Any electricity you generate but don't use can then be sold to electricity companies.

Costs for installing a hydro system vary a lot, depending on the location and the amount of electricity it can generate. A typical 5kW scheme suitable for an average home might cost £20,000 - £25,000 including installation.

Savings depend on the amount of hydroelectricity that is used in place of electricity bought from another source. If the hydro system replaces electricity bought from the National Grid then typical savings could be substantial.

Hydro systems are also eligible to receive generation and export payments through the Feed In Tariff. A 15kW system or smaller could get up to 19.9p/kWh generated.

Maintenance costs vary but are usually low as hydro systems are very reliable.

From 1st April 2010 you could be eligible to receive cash for each unit of electricity you generate using this technology.

You can make money on excess electricity by selling it back to the Grid through a scheme called Feed-In Tariffs (FITs).

Feed-In Tariffs became available in Great Britain on 1st April 2010 and the scheme guarantees a minimum payment for all electricity generated by the system, as well as a separate payment for the electricity exported to grid. These payments are in addition to the bill savings made by using the electricity generated on-site.

Once you have a microgeneration technology installed you should experience a monthly reduction in your electricity bill and then receive an income from your Feed-In Tariff provider. However, if you have taken out a loan to pay for the installation you will have to make monthly repayments to your loan company.

Feed-In Tariffs are designed so that the average monthly income from your installation will be significantly greater than your monthly loan repayment (with a 25 year loan).

Would you like to know more?

For more information on home energy generation technologies, contact your local Energy Saving Trust Advice Centre free on 0800 512 012, or visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk.

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