'Kelham Island Hydro'
Preamble to 'Kelham Island Hydro'
Small scale and micro hydropower generation is a red herring. Investment in non-viable schemes is taking away investment in the development of genuine solutions. Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is crucial – lets develop and use the things that actually work. Why are we happy to waste our time with anything that does not work? Why are we happy to pay for something that actively does more harm than good?
Hydropower comes in many shapes and forms – but is universally portrayed as perfectly “clean” and “green” energy. Investors are attracted to support these schemes on the understanding that they protect the environment. However, the amount of energy produced by such means is absolutely crucial in determining whether they do more harm than good.
The greater the energy production – the more chance that a hydropower scheme can be justifiably be thought of as “green”. In other words, you need lots of energy production as credit to pay off your inevitable debt of damage to the planet. This concept is important if you are selling a “green” concept to potential investors and local residents.
Modern manufacture and installation processes are widely known to require a great deal of fossil fuel energy. This fossil fuel usage includes fabrication, transport and installation. What is less obvious is the range of inevitable and significant impacts on the ecology of the recovering River Don that will result directly from the installation and operation of small and micro-hydropower schemes. The film highlights that the maximum amount of energy that could be produced is far too small to offset this inevitable environmental damage (both direct damage to the river and in terms of its carbon footprint).
The current system of regulation that determines whether such schemes are approved has a number of serious limitations:
· The schemes that produce the least energy (energy that might offset inevitable environmental damage caused by their installation and operation) are exempt from a formal Environmental Impact Assessment
· Such Environmental Impact Assessments are only compulsory for schemes with a generation capacity greater than 1 MW (one megawatt – or 1000 kW)
· Schemes are only currently considered in isolation
· The combined effect of several schemes is known to be potentially disastrous – even when the impact of any single scheme could be absorbed by the environment
Sheffield Renewables estimate that electricity equivalent to that used by 20 homes per year will be generated by the Kelham Island scheme. Taking the UK average household electricity usage of 4800 kWh; this equates to a mean generation capacity of just 11 kW:
20homes x 4800 kWh ÷ 8765.8 hours in a year = 10.95 kW
This is a pitiful capacity. How much energy will have been generated by the time replacement of components and other fossil fuel burning maintenance activities are required? How much of the ecology of the river corridor will suffer in the interim? Watch the film and make up your own mind.
Appendix 1 - Fish Pass This additional chapter to Kelham Island Hydro demonstrates some of the limitations and costs associated with the 'go-to' answer of a fish-pass
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.