A matter of some gravity. Just add water.
Caption: As you can imagine, there wasn't a great deal photoworthy (with all due deference to the speakers), but we loved this slide from one of them - he swears that's a tape measure he's holding!
For anyone with an environmentally-attuned ear, the word 'turbine' can quickly attract attention. These are often mentioned these days, though sadly not always positively. But this is because the discussion usually surrounds the wind-powered varieties, and the debate is still quite 'vigorous'.
So it was with great anticipation that Monday evening I attended an event that was billed as 'an exploration of the possibility for using hydro power to create renewable energy', in Hereford's magnificent Shire Hall.
Arranged by Herefordshire Council, there were speakers from existing hydropower schemes in Somerset and Dorset, the Council's own planning office, the Environment Agency and the county archaeologist.
Thought stunning, the venue was a mixed blessing, being a last minute substitution caused by the surprisingly large, though welcome turnout of well in excess of 100 persons. Sadly this taxed the PA system provided, which made it rather hard to hear at times what the speakers and audience members were saying. And by way of personal feedback, I'd suggest in future that PowerPoint presentations be kept more brief, slides should be made very simple and used only in complement to commentary, rather than just being read out, and critical (and useful) support information and data be posted online subsequently for download. It helps all present concentrate on what's being said!
And what was being said could be quite exciting. Not to mention, to this Tomorrow's World junkie (did you know it's making a comeback on the BBC?) at least, very interesting.
Amongst some rather dry (if you'll forgive the pun), if critical matters of law, policy and flow measurements, there was some really rather fun engineering to learn about: Propeller, Kaplan, Francis and Crossflow and Archimedes Screw turbines. And smaller versions, called Picots, with sums of œ600 being bandied about to generate small but steady amounts. With few leave-behinds to refer to (and a deadline to meet!) it is hard to be more specific on numbers without further follow-up research, but I would encourage going to the URLs below to learn more.
But where the amount above may look manageable, be warned that is at the micro-end, and the kit is just the tip of the iceberg. Those august bodies were not there for the fun of it. There is a mountain of paperwork involved, which means time. We're talking years. And cost. A LOT.
However, it can be worth it. With anything other than a serious drought, anyone living in the county can not be unaware that there is a fair amount of moving water around. And where water moves, it can be harnessed. I went originally on behalf of my site www.Junkk.com, as we are interested in all alternative methods of power generation, especially those that stand a chance of being not just environmentally, but better yet financially viable in terms of ROI (Return on Investment). I came away encouraged by the potential, but less enthused by the obstacles.
It was billed more at the start as applicable to mills, but frankly the option is open to many of us with a potential water energy source passing by, as my own home does in Ross. So with some determination it is worth investigating at least. I was inspired by the successful stories from other counties, in particular one from a very helpful speaker from the floor, Anthony Battersby of Mendip Power Group. They have a scheme going in now. And he had tales to tell! Highs and lows. From the bureaucratic obstacles to the sheer joy at knowing that soon kilovolts will not only be generated for personal use, but in some cases being sent back into the system at source to reduce local dependence from elsewhere in the grid. Especially when there are some nifty grants to help you do so.
As an ex Civ. Eng (though we are talking 30 years, and they did make me promise to not build anything before giving me the degree) I have to confess to still having some doubts about many options out there (solar and wind included). I was also concerned about a few slides that had Government 'targets' being imposed on the council that did not seem to match what was being said or allow for local conditions, for instance.
On balance, a very interesting and a very upbeat look at the options we have to generate non-carbon emitting energy in the county, and credit to the council for setting this up. However it was noted that 'communication' was a key element, and to this attendee at least there was so much more that could have been done in this regard, in shorter time, to push this forward. We're talking here of motivating the masses, and that needs pace and entertainment and end-benefit. A working group was established post-talk, and a huddle of folk were trying to join in, but I really couldn't face the scrum that was set up, and preferred instead to network with like-minded folk (into the concept, not so keen on the committee aspects). I learned a lot in complement to the speakers, and some which was at odds with what was shared, frankly. Plus some things I had gathered couldn't be done that actually could.
If anyone was there who fancies moving this along more informally, and feeding it back more formally to the council, Junkk.com has a postcode-based localisation facility we could use to do this, and I'm around on firstname.lastname@example.org to try and coordinate. I think hydro in Herefordshire could be a good job, and hence worth doing well.
British HydroPower Association
Herefordshire Council (Enviro Group Coordinator Geoff Perrott)
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