Hydropower has been a source of electricity generation since the late 19th century. The first hydroelectric system in the world was built in the UK in Northumberland, England, in 1878 and was used to power a single lamp.
The UK currently has 1,561 hydropower plants. Over the last 20 years the UK has seen the number of new plants increase fivefold.
Scottish Government’s, Draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, 2023 states: “Hydro power has the potential to play a significantly greater role in the energy transition – both at small-scale in co-operation with local communities as part of a diverse resilient energy supply in remote parts of Scotland, and at larger scale, providing flexibility services to the grid and helping to ensure a continued resilient and secure electricity supply.”
Currently in the UK 30% to 40%of renewable energy is provided through hydropower. Three of the main types are:
Impoundment Facilities which capture the energy from flowing water through a man-made installation called a dam. Water in reservoirs is held at a high level and released down through a tunnel building up speed before its kinetic energy is captured through turbines at the bottom rotating at high speed due to the force of the water and this is converted into mechanical energy and then electrical energy.
Diversion (also known as a Run-of-river) uses the natural flow of a river, lake or dammed reservoir to improve the flow of the water through a series of canals channelling the water towards a turbine plant were the kinetic energy is converted to electric.
Pumped Storage Facilities use energy produced from renewable sources such as wind or solar power to assist in pumping water uphill from a reservoir at a lower elevation to a second reservoir located at a higher elevation. The water at the higher reservoir can then be released at times of high demand back down to the lower reservoir, creating energy through turbines at the lower level similar to the Impoundment system.
Since the hay day of UK large scale dam construction in the 1950’s to 60’s there are now limited options for the creation of further large-scale projects due to environmental issues and availability of economically viable sites. There is however room for smaller scale hydro faculties that can be built in a sustainable way to assist with Scotland’s electricity supply.
This section provides examples of a research, teaching or innovation taking place at Robert Gordon University and/or The National Subsea Centre, Aberdeen related to this topic.
RGU Startup Accelerator 2020: Meet Power To Go Hydro
Over a period of five months, startup teams made up of students, staff and alumni of Robert Gordon University and North East Scotland College got the opportunity to turn their ideas into viable businesses the RGU Startup Accelerator.
Selected teams with ideas from any industry get access to seed funding, mentorship, training, incubation space and more. The project is funded by The Wood Foundation and run by RGU's Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group.
Project “Meet Power To Go Hydro” looked at developing an inflatable waterwheel to generate clean, accessible, affordable electricity in a way that is cheap to manufacture, install and maintain.