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the interview

Hydropower – a secure income claims BHA chairman

British Hydropower Association (BHA) chairman Chris Brett explains to Roger Abbott why he thinks all farmers who have a water resource on their farm should consider using it to generate green energy


recent survey showed some 25,000 dams offer opportunities for hydropower in England and Wales alone - and BHA chairman Chris Brett believes this form of energy can offer real security for the UK’s farmers and landowners. “Most farms in this country have some source of water available on their land, which makes farmers and landowners particularly well placed to investigate opportunities for renewable energy,” says Mr Brett in an exclusive interview with Energy Now. “If they have a dam on their land, for example, they should be looking to see how it can be used to provide a reliable source of power for the farm, maybe with a bit of extra construction and possibly by adding a fish pass,” he said. All that was needed to generate electricity was a flow of water and a fall or drop in pretty

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much any combination – and it did not have to be that big; for example, Mr Brett calculated that a flow of 1,000 litres of water over a drop of 1.6 metres could provide 12kW of electricity, which he reckoned was enough to run a small farm. Admitting that the upfront costs could be high, Mr Brett pointed out that once a hydropower project was completed, it would continue generating electricity for 50 to 100 years and it is usually

paid back within 10 to 15 years, or 20 years at the most. “The thing about hydropower is that it will not only provide electricity for you, it will still be generating power for your children when they grow up and for your children’s children. “I am convinced that hydropower plants can provide the farmers of today with a secure income for the future and allow them to continue farming. Not only does it provide power for the farm, but all the surplus electricity can be sold off to the National Grid to earn extra income.” Asked what farmers who had water resources on their farms should do to see if it could provide “free” electricity, Mr Brett said: “We suggest they follow

A wealth of experience Chris Brett has been a hydro engineer since 1994 and is currently associate director for Inter Hydro Technology (IHT), where he is responsible for providing mechanical and electrical engineering input to projects being managed by his company in partnership with R G Parkins and Partners. Before joiningIHT, Mr Brett was hydro sales manager with Gilbert Gilkes & Gordon and gained a wealth of experience visiting small hydropower projects around the world. He was involved in a number of overseas projects where he advised project developers and provided input into the economic analysis of small hydro schemes. As chairman of the British Hydropower Association (BHA), he is actively engaged in negotiations with the government and other stakeholders to promote hydropower as the natural alternative to electricity from fossil fuels in the UK. ❚

mar-apr 2010

the interview

today and tomorrow, a 5-point plan, to find out if there is the potential for hydropower on their land, how much it will generate and what it will cost, right through to the final construction of the plant.” He explained: “Firstly, they should call in a consultant for a pre-feasibility survey, which will cost about £1,000. This will reveal if there is potential for hydropower on the farm, provide an estimate of how much electricity could be generated and give a rough guide to show much it will cost to install. “If this initial report looks good, the recommendation is to commission a full feasibility study, which will cost anything up to £5,000 and will include talking to the Environment Agency, local planners, local authorities and other stakeholders, such as the fishing sector, neighbours and so on,” he said. “Once that is finished and it is still looking positive, we have what I like to

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‘If you have a dam on your land, you should be looking to see how it can be used to provide a reliable source of power’ call a bankable document – something the farmer or landowner can take to the bank, or other funding body to raise the finance to build the project.” Moving on to the fourth step, Mr Brett pointed out that at this stage one had to start applying for the various necessary permissions and permits that would be needed before moving on to actually constructing the hydropower unit. This includes permission to build in or adjacent to a watercourse, an application for a connection to the National Grid to export surplus energy and planning permission. “The project is now ready to go,”

said Mr Brett, advising people even at this stage to check all the details and equipment first to ensure they had everything before they started building. He estimated that it could take up to four years to progress from step one to step five, but said the actual construction of the project should only take between six and nine months. For those who wanted to do some of the initial work themselves, the BHA had a “Small Hydro Guide,” which is free to download from its website (www.british-hydro. org), added Mr Brett, who believes spending £1,000 on a pre-feasibility study is money well spent. ❚

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Chris Brett Interview  

Energy Now Magazine