Turbines Tree

Hydropower a Sustainable Source of Energy for You and Your Community

Electricity can be generated from the flow of water, providing there is enough volume and the water is falling from a high enough height. Using devices such as turbines, the energy of the rivers flow can then be used to generate electricity, creating a renewable energy source that is essential in the growing battle against global warming.

By 2020 it has been predicted that at least 15% of the energy produced in the UK needs to be from renewable sources, like hydropower. Energy generation from hydropower can be produced throughout the year, with the winter seeing more generation than the summer. However, because of its reliability throughout the year, hydropower is seen as quite a safe option for renewable energy.

If constructed within a community, hydropower can significantly reduce the amount of emissions from this area, thus reducing the number of greenhouse gases that are contributing to global warming. Equally just as with the increasing popular solar panels a small income can be benefitted from alongside a reduction in the cost of energy bills.

How much energy can hydropower systems create?

The amount of electricity that can be produced by a hydropower system depends entirely upon its size and the force of the flowing water. For example, a small scheme that produces around 50kW (kilowatts) could generate enough power to provide energy for several businesses or homes. Smaller schemes that have an average output of around 4kW will produce enough energy for the standard UK home, with some being left over.

Will it be cost effective?

Again, this will all depend on the size of the system and how many people are inputting into the scheme. Generally, it is seen as one of the more cost-effective forms of generating electricity from renewable sources, with the initial outlay costs normally being regained with 10 – 20 years.

Additionally, there are Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) available whereby energy companies will establish payments on a regular basis to those communities/homes who are generating their own electricity from renewable sources. Up to 5 million watts can be produced in one of these schemes for these payments to occur.

The longevity of the systems is normally placed around 40 – 50 years providing it is well maintained. Hydropower is also a low maintenance source, which should keep the costs down too, but it is always worth checking to see if you are entitled to any grants or support for setting up your hydropower system. However, you may find that you have to choose either FITs or the grant.

Is it a viable source in our home or community?

In order to get the ball rolling with planning your hydropower scheme you would need to check the following before going ahead:


You will need to be located near to a stream or river to have the hydropower system installed in; but it is important you seek advice as to whether this particular river is suitable, as not all are.

You will also need to ensure that you can access the river and have permission to use the land next to the river for building and maintaining the device.

National Grid

In order for you to generate an income from the scheme as well as ensuring that there is no waste energy left over, it’s important to check that you will be connected to the local network.

You may still be entitled to FITs even if you aren’t on the grid, but proof would have to be provided that the generated electricity that is created is being used beneficially and reasonably.

When connecting to the grid, you will be able to do so without any permission if the total output provided to the network is less than 4kW. However, you will need to check that your installer has notified the local network within 28 days of connection.

For outputs over 4kW permission will need obtaining in order for you to connect to the network; while this will generally never be issue you should be aware that there may be a fee for this. If you are in a really rural area, you may also find that this process takes slightly longer.


In all cases, permission does need to be gained from the Environment Agency, with the majority of cases also needing the Local Planning Authority’s permission for planning.

If you are thinking of looking into installing hydropower into your local community or home then always seek professional advice before doing so. A lot of factors need taking into consideration before you can get the go-ahead, but once achieved this could create a great boost for your local community as well as allowing you to do your bit for the environment.

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