Water is an extremely powerful force of nature and we have seen the destruction it can cause with flooding. There is a way of harnessing this power and making it work for us, not against us. Hydroelectricity is a word you may not be familiar with but it could just solve your energy worries and earn you money.

If you are lucky enough to live near running water, whether it’s a small stream or a larger river, you have the elements at your fingertips to generate your own electricity. Hydropower systems (also called micro-hydroelectricity) have the capacity to produce enough electricity to run all the lighting and electrical appliances in an average home.

How does Hydropower work ?

All streams and rivers that flow downhill have potential energy because of the force of the motion. Hydropower systems convert this energy into kinetic energy via a turbine, which produces electricity through a generator. The amount of electricity a system generates is dependant on how efficiently it converts the moving water into electrical power.

Black River DamThe benefits of a hydro system  

  • Reduction of your electricity bills – Since a hydro system has the capacity to generate power 24 hours a day, this ensures that your household appliances are constantly supplied with electricity.
  • Be paid to generate energy – The beauty of the hydro system is that if you are eligible, not only will you get payments from the Feed In Tariff scheme for all the electricity you generate, but any surplus you produce will be bought by the National Grid.
  • Cheaper heating and hot water – Since a hydro system may generate more electricity than you actually require for lighting your home and powering your electrical appliances – so the excess can be utilised to heat your home and your hot water too.
  • Off-grid homes (a cheaper option) – Although installing a hydro system can be expensive, if you don’t have a connection to the National Grid it can actually work out the cheaper option. You can find out more about off-grid options here).
  • Cutting your carbon footprint – Hydroelectricity is a green, renewable energy and is does not result in any harmful carbon dioxide or other pollutants being released into the atmosphere.

What does it cost?

Although the costs vary quite dramatically, depending on location, a typical 5kW scheme suitable for an average home might cost around £25,000 (including installation).

How much can it save me?

This is dependent on the number of hours the turbine is able to run in a year, which in turn depends on how often the level of the river is high enough to supply the system. At present the rate for selling back to the National grid is 4.77p/kWh. Of course, you may wish to store your excess power in batteries for further use at home.

So, if earning and saving money isn’t incentive enough, take a look at the maintenance involved. Once installed, most systems last for 40 to 50 years, with low running and maintenance costs and could last for longer if maintained correctly!

Being plumbers and heating engineers means that we are constantly learning about new, innovative energy systems and this seems both practical and highly economical.

Amazingly, Norway gets 98-99% of its electricity from hydroelectric power, more than any other country.

[Images by gracey and revwarheart]