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Hydro-power hotspot app pinpoints prime power location

A new software application could save time, paperwork and thousands of pounds in locating the best place in a river to generate hydro-power, researchers said.

The technology - developed jointly by the University of Leicester and renewable energy firm High Efficiency Heating - automatically selects appropriate locations in UK rivers at which to site a range of micro renewable hydro-power turbines. It also determines the environmental sensitivity of the location.

Martyn Cowsill, project consultant, said: “We could be talking about thousands of inexpensive 10-20kW turbines, installed on urban rivers, close to the point of use, close to points of trouble-free grid connectivity, producing renewable ‘greener’ energy during peak times and possibly also hydrogen for hydrogen vehicles at times of low demand.”

The novel prototype software could save thousands of pounds of initial survey costs by using free publicly available data sourced from satellites to pinpoint the best locations for sourcing renewable energy.

The app was the brainchild of High Efficiency Heating, the renewable energy company, which then turned to scientists at the University of Leicester in order to use their expertise in Big Data and process satellite information and aircraft-based earth observation.

Andy Baxter, managing director of High Efficiency Data, said: “We had the idea of creating a tool that would radically change the way that hydro-power opportunities are identified and then qualified as ‘viable’. If we could do this, it would be a truly market-disruptive development.”

The project was funded by a grant from Innovate UK for an initial 10-month feasibility project. Work focused on the River Tame to the East of Manchester and yielded multiple solutions for selected turbine specifications along much of the river.

As E&T reported, last month renewables such as wind, solar, bioenergy and hydro generated almost a fifth of the UK’s electricity in 2014, setting a new record for clean technologies.

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