Sunday, 17 June 2012

Hydroelectric Power

In my first career, I was a qualified Geologist, before psychology took over my life. I keep seeing lots of media coverage of Wind Power and it's wonders, despite the fact that it's an expensive means of power generation, and I've also seen articles decrying Wave power as unsustainable without spending millions developing the technology. No-one I've seen has spent time praising the benefits of hydroelectric power. Basically, you need water and preferably a change in gradient, either from a dam or from water falling downhill in mountainous areas. Pardon me, but mountains and water are a huge potential resource in western parts of the British Isles. And what about Kielder Water?

How much does our power cost?

Here are some facts from Wikipedia on the cost of power generation:-
French energy costs for different generation technologies in Euros per megawatt hour (2011)
TechnologyCost (€/MWh)
Hydro power20
Natural gas turbines without CO2 capture61
Onshore wind69
Solar farms293

Germany - The following figures arise for the costs of electricity production in newly constructed power plants in 2010

Energy source
Costs of electricity production in euros per megawatt hour
34.7 – 126.7
Nuclear Energy
107.0 – 124.0
Domestic Gas
106.0 – 118.0
Black Coal
104.0 – 107.0
Wind Energy Onshore
49.7 –   96.1
Wind Energy Offshore
35.0 – 150.0
Solar Electricity
284.3 – 391.4

Where does our power come from?
In the UK - By 2004, total electricity production stood at 382.7 TWh (up 23.7% compared to 309.4 TWh in 1990), generated from the following sources:_
  • gas – 39.93% (0.05% in 1990)
  • coal – 33.08% (67.22% in 1990)
  • nuclear – 19.26% (18.97% in 1990)
  • renewables – 3.55% (0% in 1990)
  • hydroelectric – 1.10% (2.55% in 1990) - going down!
  • imports – 1.96% (3.85% in 1990)
  • oil – 1.12% (6.82% in 1990)
 I could only find one British example of how much we invest in hydroelectric power:-
The Scottish Executive has quoted a target of generating 17% to 18% of Scotland's electricity from renewables by 2010, rising to 40% by 2020. Apparently, this is mainly wind based. However, again from Wikipedia - the 100 MW Glen Doe project, currently under construction and Scotland's largest civil engineering project, is the first large scale scheme in Scotland for almost fifty years but is likely to be one of the last of its kind.

To put this in context: -
Scotland has 85% of the UK's hydro-electric energy resource,[25] much of it developed by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board in the 1950s. The "Hydro Board", which brought "power from the glens", was a nationalised industry at the time although it was privatised in 1989 and is now part of Scottish and Southern Energy plc.At the end of 2011, there was 4,796 megawatts (MW) of installed renewables electricity capacity in Scotland, (1330 Mw from Hydroelectricity), an increase of 9.5 per cent (416 MW) on the end of 2010.

My research was hampered by the lack of recent figures for many of these technologies - for instance, will the cost of wind power  go down as more wind turbines are activated? However, it is apparent that:-
  • We are not investing in this area
  • It is comparatively cheap compared to other energy sources
  • Construction of reservoirs/power plants would bring jobs
  • We need more water storage facilities - an extra bonus, as are the leisure facilities this could provide.
  • It's green and clean and doesn't produce carbon dioxide
  • If Scotland can construct hydro, why can't we?
We need more clean, cheap energy! Why is this tried and tested form of power generation being ignored or sidelined?

1 comment:

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