Research to boost North West hydro power
Lancaster University has embarked on research which could see more of the region's electricity generated by hydro power.
In North West England, thanks to reliable rainfall, many rivers and streams can potentially be used to generate electricity by harnessing the power of moving water and converting it into energy in a turbine.
Present day hydro developments can range from very small scale, possibly supplying one or two houses, to larger scale such as a multi-megawatt scheme.
The North West currently has 14 sites, generating 8.2 GWh of electricity from hydro power per year, according to regional statistics for 2004.
At a national level the Department of Trade and Industry states that if small-scale hydroelectric power from all of the streams and rivers in the UK could be tapped it would be possible to produce 10,000GWh per year - enough to meet over 3 per cent of our total electrical needs, making a significant contribution to the Government's renewables target of 10 per cent by 2010.
However practical problems, such as environmental sensitivity and economic considerations, have meant that hydro power has not been developed to its full potential in many areas.
Thanks to a £290,000 grant from the Joule Centre a North West Development Agency-backed organisation which supports academic and industrial research into sustainable energy - Lancaster University is now set to develop a system which will promote the use of hydro power in the North West by examining some of the obstacles standing in the way of hydro systems.
Researchers also aim to develop a tactical tool which will help identify potential sites for hydro power developments and provide a means of assessing them for suitability.
The two-and-a-half-year project brings together Lancaster University researchers from a range of disciplines including Engineering, Environmental Science, Geography, Economics and Sociology along with researchers in the University's Centre for the Study of Environmental Change. Scientists from the Natural Environmental Research Council's Centre for Hydrology and Ecology which is based in the University's Lancaster Environment Centre - will also take part in the research.
Director of Lancaster University Renewable Energy Group George Aggidis said: Water power was used for centuries to power machinery in mills and factories. In the past it determined the location of industry, supported the industrial revolution and shaped the landscape of the North West but since the end of the 19th century its importance declined.
With current calls for diverse, clean energy supplies, all resources should be examined and exploited where ever possible. This new research programme will identify potential hydro power capacity in the North West and assist in its development. Hydro power is a clean power source, and will contribute to national targets for CO2 reduction.