Hydropower is one of the oldest power sources on the planet. The concept of harnessing energy from flowing water as it spins through a wheel or turbine has been used for farming as far back as ancient Greece. Why? Because, it’s a highly efficient, readily available and reliable source of energy.
Large vs small-scale projects
Today, we often associate “hydropower” with large dams with enormous reservoirs; the Hoover Dam or Aswan Dam come to mind. These massive engineering feats have been an important part of our global electricity supply, with hydro as a whole producing around 16% of the world’s electricity, and contributing 60% of all renewable electricity. However, creating such large scale projects requires enormous amounts of resources, and they inevitably impact on the built environment, local communities, and wildlife.
Small-scale hydro ‘run-of-river’ is a very different picture. Instead of holding back the river flow, water is simply diverted at the weir and returned immediately downstream, which results in an ultra-low impact development. Where appropriate, rivers and streams are an untapped resource, often running through towns and cities where there is high demand for electricity.
A community hydro scheme in Bristol, UK
Our project at Netham Weir is a brilliant example of harnessing water energy right on our doorstep. The project is still in development, but we’re super excited about sharing the benefits of the scheme and maybe even seeing it replicate in other UK cities.
Here are 7 reasons why local level hydro can be brilliant in a city:
Interested in developing more local level hydropower? Why not get in touch with your local community energy organisation to chat a bit more to them about their projects. There are hundreds of community energy providers around the UK working to accelerate our move away from fossil fuels in a way that benefits us all on a local level.
 Estimated renewable energy share of global electricity production in 2019 (Source: REN21 2020)