The months of September and October saw some busy weeks for us at Snowdonia Hydro. With preliminary accreditation coming to an end on the 30th of September and the consultation on the proposed cuts to the Feed-in Tariff closing on the 23rd October it was full steam ahead to try and complete applications for accreditation and craft a response to join in the fight against these government changes.
The process of preliminary accreditation was originally put into place to give early notice of and protect against degression, giving a guaranteed price to investors in hydro projects. Without this system the payback time for building a site becomes less certain, however luckily for us most of our projects are on such excellent sites that they are still going ahead even with these cuts in place.
We are also staying optimistic that accreditation will be reinstated in January 2016 when the results of the Feed-in Tariff consultation will be published.
Though busy we have also found the time to head out on visits to a number of our sites here in Wales, giving the opportunity to test off-road driving skills amongst stunning scenery and the chance to look at sites both old and new, developing ideas and plans for the next stages of construction over the winter months.
Moving forward we are also happy to announce that Snowdonia Hydro are now members of the British Hydro Association and look forward to the opportunities ahead of us with this membership.
Renovations are complete on the offgrid property in Ceredigion. Up to this point the property used a 5kW Gilkes turbine, which had been running for over 40 years. We have installed an entirely new system with a completely new (penstock) pipe and control unit, boosting the maximum power output to 18kW. This has been achieved by increasing the head height (vertical drop), thereby increasing the pressure.
The dam has been renovated and modernised to include a hands-off flow, as per requirement; this ensures the depleted section of the river never dries up. Environmental benefits include easier fish migrations and more abundant ecology due to the now constant flow. The new system features a bespoke three phase to single phase transformer as well as a Gerry Pope Offgrid electronic load controller; the turgo turbine is provided by Hydrolite.
The family have discussed installing a hot tub as one of the additional features now available to them due to their increased power capacity.
Damage inflicted by lightning strikes on hydro systems is significant. The surge of voltage from nearby lightning strikes is much too great for the sensitive electrical components to withstand and consequently entire systems are brought to a halt until the electrics are repaired and reinstated. Meanwhile the systems are not generating electricity and the clients are either left without power or missing out on the financial benefits they would otherwise be receiving.
We are pleased to have Daniel Reaney, our resident Renewable Energy (MEng) student intern from the University of Exeter, currently focussed on the project. Together, we are working on a solution to mitigate the impact of proximal lightning strikes and therefore reduce associated downtimes. Lightning is a threat to all hydro systems; by identifying and removing vulnerability from the classic design we aim to deliver one of the safest and most robust systems available anywhere.
If anyone has had any relevant experiences with lightning and hydro systems we would love to hear from you. Please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.