Scheme optimisation and snowman’s at the British Hydropower Association (BHA) conference

Jon Whitmore, Lead in Hydroecology, attended the first day of the British Hydropower Association (BHA) conference in Glasgow this week. Welcoming Paul Wheelhouse MSP and Minister for Energy, the event was attended by developers, suppliers, consultants, Distribution Network Operators (DNOs), Ofgem and Electricity System Operators (ESOs). Below, Jon fills us in on his experiences.


The opening session included a presentation by Simon Hamlyn, BHA Chief Executive Officer, and Mary Drury, the new BHA Chair. Focusing on industry uncertainty associated with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) proposed removal of the Feed in Tariff (FiT) at the end of March ’19, Simon and Mary discussed the efforts made by the BHA to lobby for a continuation of the scheme.

Chris McKaig from SSE talked about distribution outage planning and how the replacement of 88 overhead poles was required at Grudie Bridge partly as a result of damage by Woodpeckers. Chris also reported that there are increased efforts to reduce the impact of planned outages by undertaking more ‘live line’ harvesting of trees in forestry areas. I.e. felling without shutting off adjacent distribution networks.

Scheme optimisation

Austin Flather of ANF Consulting and John Heaton of Glen Hydro both discussed scheme optimisation in their talks. Austin presented on how weir optimisation is often overlooked. He did, however, give an example of how £65k of works to replace a large array of degraded weir boards at a Hydroelectric Power (HEP) site on the River Aire resulted in greater regulation of weir flow and increased turbine flow (within licence conditions). This then resulted in the costs of weir board replacement achieving payback within 140 days.

John Heaton gave an example of how a failure to include in-line sensors in an installed scheme resulted in a lack of pressure data. This, in turn, delayed the diagnosis of sustained failure to operate at peak power output as being head loss associated with air build up in the pipework.

Correction by the inclusion of appropriate valves resulted in achievement of peak power and an increase in return of £12k per annum. John’s talk also prompted a light-hearted discussion on pigging (the process of releasing a loose-fitting bung into a pipeline for the purposes of cleaning accumulated algae that can reduce pipeline efficiency).

Knoydart peninsula

Snowman at BHA conference
Snowman at BHA conference

My personal highlight was a talk from Jamie Adam from Community Energy Scotland who spoke on the use of single liquid flow batteries and their proposed application on the Knoydart peninsula (which isn’t connected to the road network and only accessible by a two-day walk or by ferry).

The proposal is to make use of the unused capacity from an existing high head turbine scheme to charge the batteries, which are then transported by electric-powered boat to three offshore fish farms. The long-term aim is to completely phase out the running of diesel generators which currently provides all the farm’s power.

The only downside to the conference was when leaving the venue to head for home: an illuminated snowman in the hotel lobby reminded me of the impending expense of Christmas. Bah humbug!

Want to know more?

Email Jon Whitmore or call him on 01274 714269 for more information on how we can help support your hydropower proposals.

You can also find examples of some of our hydropower work on our web pages:

Hydroelectric power scheme at Garnetts Mill in Otley

Saltaire Hydropower Scheme, Bradford Council



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