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Using Hydropower in Your Home

By: Sarah O'Hara BA (hons) - Updated: 20 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Hydropower Water Energy Drop

Hydropower systems harness the energy from running water to generate electricity. Running water powers a turbine which generates the electricity. The greater the height of the water drop and the faster the water is flowing, the more electricity will be generated.

Is Hydropower Suitable For My Home?

In order to generate electricity for your home using hydropower, you will need to be relatively close to a source of running water. If your home is not close to a source of running water, however, you can also get connected to a suitable grid.

Using an off-grid hydropower system, water-generated energy can be used to power directly or the energy can be stored in batteries for later use.

For hydropower systems linked to the national grid, the energy can be used to supplement the existing supply. Through a national grid hydropower hook-up, if enough electricity is not generated, mains electricity will make up the deficit in supply.

Similarly, if excess hydropower electricity is generated, it’s used by the national grid. Through a grid connection system, the excess electricity can’t be sold back to the national grid. However, excess electricity generated through a stand-alone hydropower system can be sold to the national grid.

Why Choose Hydropower For Your Home?

Generating electricity for the home using a small-scale hydropower system produces minimal emissions of carbon and other harmful gases.

Hydropower is one of the most reliable ways of generating renewable energy. Wind turbines and PV cells don’t always generate consistent energy, whereas in the right circumstances a small-scale hydropower system will.

Small-scale hydropower technology is a fast developing technology and is already proven to be reliable.

Small-scale domestic hydropower systems can generate up to 90% of a household’s electricity supply but around 70% is a more realistic estimate.

Hydropower In The Home Considerations

The cost of a small-scale hydropower system for the home depends on the height of the water drop, the individual site and the amount of energy generated. Water drops are organised into three categories:

  • Low head
  • Medium head
  • High head

High head drops are the greatest drops, so the water has further to fall and usually flows fastest.

There will be an initial instalment fee for a small-scale hydropower system along with additional payments per KW of energy generated. High head hydropower systems are the most expensive to install at around £20,000 for the initial installation. Low head systems cost around £4,000 to install. Once a hydropower system has been installed, it should last for up to ten years with adequate maintenance.

Although the set-up costs for a small-scale domestic hydropower system are considerable, there are grants available to help individuals set up renewable energy generation systems.

It is recommended that any hydropower energy system installers and products are accredited by BERR, the Government’s Department for Business and Regulatory Reform. Search for the Low Carbon Buildings Programme online to view a list of accredited suppliers.

Only those who use BERR's accredited installers and suppliers are eligible for government renewable energy grants.

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