With the prospect of accelerated global warming, UK energy companies are under intense pressure to reduce their carbon emissions. Some are turning to renewable energy sources, such as wind power and solar power, and nuclear power is also coming back into favour. Others are still staying with fossil fuels, but are moving away from dirty coal-fired plants to cleaner natural gas turbines.
However, very few are placing their bets on hydropower, which is why LoCO2 energy is so interesting. Founded in 2009, the Rickmansworth-based utility company has a number of micro-hydro projects underway to generate clean electricity.
What is hydropower?
Basically, hydropower harnesses running water to generate electricity. This is not a new concept – for example, the venerable waterwheel has used running water to power flour mills since time immemorial. This concept has been taken to gargantuan levels in places such as Canada, where huge amounts of fresh water are used to power entire cities. For example, Niagara Falls generates approximately 4.4 GW of power – that’s nearly enough power 8 million UK homes. Other hydroelectric projects produce even more – for instance, the James Bay project in Québec generates four times the amount that Niagara Falls does.
At the other end of the scale lie micro-hydro projects, and this is where LoC02 is placing its bets. The company currently has eight hydropower plants throughout the UK, which are operated by its sister company TLS Hydro Power. Six of these are located in Scotland and two are in England. While these do not generate the same amount of power as a Niagara Falls, they still generate decent power. For example, the Stormontfield hydropower station in Perthshire generates 110 kW of power – enough for about 200 homes – while the one asked Balgonie produces 650 kW. While this is modest compared to Niagara Falls, it’s worthwhile remembering that replacing 650 kW of conventional power saves over 1250 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year.
Many of these power stations are located on the site of old mills, which the company has acquired and renovated since it was founded in 2009. According to the company, this lessens the environmental impact compared to building new micro-hydro sites, as well as reducing the development effort. The company has also made further efforts to make these sites friendly to the local wildlife, such as adding fish passes that let aquatic life safely bypass the power generation site.