Running water is used to turn a wheel, driving an electric generator. A stream or river with good flow and drop in height is required. Developing hydroelectric projects often involves investment beyond the means of an individual and many have been developed as community projects, such as the Whitby Esk Energy scheme at Ruswarp, near Whitby.
Turbine installed at Ruswarp September 2012
Why Use Hydro Power ?
Readily available local energy resource.
- Carbon free.
- Low visual impact. A high efficiency (70 – 90%), by far the best of all renewable energy technologies.
- A high capacity factor (typically >50%), compared with 10% for solar and 30% for wind.
- A high level of predictability, varying with annual rainfall patterns. Slow rate of change; the output power varies only gradually from day to day (not from minute to minute).
- It is a long-lasting and robust technology; systems can readily be engineered to last for 50 years or more.
Small hydro is in most cases ‘run-of-river’; in other words any dam or barrage is quite small, usually just a weir, and little or no water is stored. Therefore run-of-river installations do not have the same kinds of adverse effect on the local environment as large-scale hydro.
The energy group commissioned a number of feasibility studies for hydro power along the river Esk, which led to the choosing of the site at Ruswarp and the setting up of Whitby Esk Energy.
There is a much smaller 1 kW Archimedes Screw not far away on a stream in Bransdale at Bonfield Ghyll Farm. It was installed in 2007 to provide electricity for an off-grid farm owned by the National Trust. The screw is enclosed within a steel tube but can be seen through clear panels, A public footpath passes by and there is an information board on the site.
See our page on Financial support for energy saving and generation. The section on that page relevant to this technology is the one on the Feed-in Tariff.
Follow this link to return to the page on Renewable Energy Technologies