The BHA Hydro Network is the one-day UK conference and technical exhibition dedicated solely to the unique world of hydropower. Our 2018 event, which took place at The Metropole Hotel & Spa in Llandrindod Wells, Wales, on the 28th June, proved to be another busy and popular event. The delegation of industry professionals, experts and some of hydropower’s leading practitioners joined a wide selection of stimulating speakers and a variety of exhibitors showcasing their expertise and sharing their knowledge and experiences. With significant changes to support mechanisms for hydropower after 2019, the BHA Hydro Network covered many of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Sponsored by Dulas and supporting for the second year running Community Energy Wales, Community Energy England and the Micro Hydro Association, we were delighted to welcome Jennifer Pride, Welsh Government’s Head of Onshore Renewable Energy to deliver the Keynote Address.
CHAIR: Simon Hamlyn, Chief Executive Officer, BHA
In our opening session we heard about four very topical issues:
- Keynote address – Jennifer Pride, Welsh Government: Jenny Pride delivered the Keynote Address with an overview of Welsh energy policy. Jenny covered the current state of generation in Wales, the impact of decentralisation and locally used energy, and the decarbonisation of heat and transport. She also updated delegates of progress towards generation and ownership targets and how Welsh Government is encouraging their delivery, highlighting some of the current and future support programmes and drawing out some specific insights relevant to hydropower.
- Turning reactive work into proactive investments – Phil Horton, Dulas: Phil focused on how to turn reactive work into proactive investments. With the forthcoming changes to hydro’s financial support mechanisms, Phil highlighted the need to consider new opportunities to maximise revenues, describing some of the innovative ways in which Dulas helps its clients to achieve this. He demonstrated this with a case study showing a scheme that yielded an increase in annual generation of approximately 49% in an average year by applying a tailored O&M solution – something which looks likely to be an upward trend in promoting hydropower profitability.
- Additional revenues for distributed energy resources – Ben Godfrey, Western Power Distribution: Ben spoke of additional revenue opportunities for distributed energy resources, explaining that as distribution network operators transition to become distribution system operators (DNO to DSO), their networks will become smarter and more flexible, thereby unlocking value for customers within a specific region.
- Can alternative connection arrangements with DNOs increase the installation of hydro generation? – Sonya Bedford, Stephens Scown: Recently awarded an MBE, Sonya asked if alternative connection arrangements with DNOs can increase the installation of hydro generation. Sonya explained that the amount of renewable energy being deployed has decreased significantly recently, due in part to the difficulty in obtaining affordable connection to the grid and, with the increased penetration of renewable energy over the last 10 years, DNOs are seeing constraints on their networks resulting in rising connection costs that can make many hydro projects unviable. Sonya considered a range of alternative connection arrangements that could provide a solution to this problem.
A refreshing and positive start to the day!
CHAIR: Ed Bailey, Baileys & Partners
With an innovative theme, we were graced with the company of five very interesting speakers in our second session:
- Hydro expansion and innovation at Dwr Cymru Welsh Water – Mike Pedley, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water: Mike challenged delegates to provide evidence of any other systems that could challenge theirs at Mynydd Llandegai as a system that brings two flows into a single Pelton turbine with two runners on the same shaft. Mike also confirmed ambitious plans for further expansion of their hydro portfolio.
- Overcoming challenges in community hydro – Keith Jones, National Trust: Keith described the work of community energy organisations in North Wales and the steep learning curve on selling energy locally from power generated locally, not helped by his description of “Smart Meters not actually being, in fact, that smart!”
- Innovation in hydro – Stephen Crosher, Fleet Renewables: Stephen challenged the perception that hydro is an industry with little scope to innovate by presenting the prospect of new pumped storage opportunities in over 15,000 sites.
- Innovative solution; fish migration screw system Rehart/Strasser – Thomas Boettcher, Rehart GmbH: Thomas had his work cut out but managed very carefully (not in his native tongue) to describe some of the more innovative solutions to fish passage.
- Increased energy generation through improved remote monitoring – Joss Crewdson, Gilkes Energy: Joss explained that even the most remote, poorly served areas of the UK in internet speed can now, through their innovation, enjoy increased energy generation by improved remote monitoring.
All in all a very impressive session with plenty of food for thought.
CHAIR: Phil Horton, Dulas
In our third session, five speakers covered a range of topics, all of which were related to helping projects to succeed both practically and financially:
- Welsh Government update and actions in support of hydropower projects – Jenny Pride, Welsh Government: Jenny gave more detail on Welsh Government policy as it pertains to hydro and BHA members thanked her for the positive response to the recommendation of the Task & Finish Group.
- The potential for introducing permitted development rights for small-scale, low-risk hydro schemes – Michael Phillips, Dulas: Mike presented the findings of a report into permitted development rights that will, if implemented, simplify the application and approval process for low-risk hydro.
- Charging futures – Jodie Cartwright, National Grid: Jodie gave a very clear explanation of the complex subject of network charging and encouraged us all to get involved in the current consultations on the future of charges.
- Shared ownership of renewable energy in Wales – Robert Proctor, Community Energy Wales: Rob gave a fascinating presentation on community ownership models and their benefits both to local communities and developers.
- Capitalising on increasing price volatility through an intelligent PPA powered by a Virtual Power Plant – Joe McDonald, Limejump: Joe helped us to understand how the Internet of Things is being applied to complex power purchase, generation and storage systems, along with the options of buying and selling through virtual PPAs.
Overall, these presenters contributed to an upbeat message that the industry is looking to a positive future without significant subsidy.
CHAIR: Richard Rees, North Wales Hydro
Our final session saw five speakers continue the themes of innovation and practical solutions to current challenges:
- Airborne and terrestrial vision – Jonathan Wales, Costain: Jonathan provided an interesting update on the capabilities of drone and other camera technology for improving site safety and general information flow during the course of a project. More specifically for hydro, 4K technology can be used to map changes in gradient and for flood mapping in 3D.
- Co-locating battery storage with a hydro scheme – Russ Blaber, Cobalt: Russ gave an overview of the co-located hydro and battery storage schemes, which he has been involved in delivering for Eelpower and Barn Energy. Russ explained the complexity of the engineering solution for getting everything connected correctly. A sufficiently sized grid connection is key when it comes to adding battery technology onto a hydro scheme, where a 5-8 year payback is achievable.
- Advanced pipeline technology for hydro projects – Mark Stanway, Aquaspira: Mark presented the benefits of their composite steel reinforced pipe, which is suitable for hydro schemes with pressures of up to 1 Bar. The pipe is flexible but strong and very durable, with a 120-year design life and various fittings and accessories made to facilitate access or flushing out.
- The challenges of upgrading existing hydro installations – Jonathan Cox, Erre Due and Chris Henshaw, Bluenergy: Jonathan and Chris offered advice on the availability of trash rack cleaners for low head hydro schemes, giving examples of some case studies. Chris explained the importance of good remote monitoring for analysing turbine performance. He also discussed various ways to add value to operating schemes, such as adding an invertor to an Archimedean screw site, transferring water to the hydro intake from another watercourse to increase the capacity factor, the importance of pigging, and concentrating on the whole performance of the turbine rather than just peak output.
- Smart grid and site optimisiation – Simon Morris, Ricardo Energy & Environment: Simon focused on the benefits of two parties coming together to share a grid connection. He described the 350kW Dalavich Hydro Scheme, which was benefiting from active network management offered by a much larger neighbouring scheme when it wasn’t at peak output. This has facilitated a saving on grid connection fees and higher output for the scheme, which was otherwise limited to 50kW.
Simon Hamlyn closed the event, thanking all those who contributed and everyone that attended.