Although current in-water system hydropower technology cannot yet offer all the benefits from utilizing existing municipal water systems, Bangor University and Trinity College Dublin have highlighted the potential for further cost savings from micro-hydroelectric power that could also reduce greenhouse gases.
An Ireland-Wales micro-hydroelectric research study funded with a US$1.5 million European Regional Development Fund grant investigated whether placing hydropower turbines within the existing Wales water system could benefit customers and the water industry.
The research studied the water supply system’s current efficiency, how much new technology could cost and its environmental benefits, and which groups need to collaborate to enable the water industry to reap the greatest benefits from installing micro-hydropower into their systems.
Welsh Water is the sixth largest of the 10 regulated water and sewerage companies in England and Wales. The company released “Our Sustainable Future,” a strategic direction statement, in 2007 that says that by 2035 its customers can expect the company will have invested in low energy technologies, such as wind turbines and small hydro generation units.
Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, the system in which the study was conducted, acquired small hydro plants from Infinis Energy in December 2014 that have a total capacity of 14 MW.
According to published reports, Mike Pedley, head of Energy from Dwr Cymru Welsh Water welcomed the project findings.
"At Welsh Water we already make considerable use of hydro, but this project has helped bring into focus where more could be done with the right technological developments,” he said. “Equipment such as pressure reducing valves are common in all water companies’ networks, but none has yet to offer a viable hydro solution for the majority of these sites."
The project partners are seeking regional and European funding to further develop technology needed to exploit the untapped energy potential in the Dwr Cymur system other English and Welsh water systems.