Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland
Hydroelectric power uses water flowing through a turbine to drive a generator which produces electricity. The faster the water is flowing and the bigger the drop, the more electricity will be generated. You can either:
use a water wheel or a turbine for run-of-the-river schemes which use the natural flow of the water to generate hydroelectricity
store water in a reservoir to be passed though an underwater turbine at pressure.
Hydropower is site specific and you should choose a scheme that suits your site and needs. The payback period for a small system is likely to be over ten years.
Even a small hydropower plant can cause water pollution, disrupt fish migration and cause ecological damage if badly designed and built.
If you want to develop a micro-hydro power plant, you will need the correct authorisation from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). To apply, you must submit supporting information including:
To develop a hydropower scheme you will need an abstraction or impoundment licence from the NIEA if your scheme uses more than 20 cubic metres of water per day.
If you place structures in any waterway that are likely to affect its drainage you must have consent from the Rivers Agency.
If you abstract water for your hydropower development you need to consult with the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) to make sure your scheme does not damage fisheries.
If your scheme is in the Foyle or Carlingford catchment areas you must notify the Loughs Agency.
To develop a hydropower scheme you need a simple or complex licence from SEPA under the Controlled Activities Regulations. The type of licence you need and the fees you pay depend on the generating capacity of your hydropower development. This is based on your scheme as a whole and not on individual components.
If your hydropower generating capacity is less than 2 megawatts (MW) you do not have to pay any fee other than the application fee. If it is less than 5MW you pay reduced fees.
You can also obtain more information from SEPA by emailing them at email@example.com.
In Northern Ireland, if you want to build a hydropower plant you must apply for planning permission from your local divisional planning office at the same time you apply to the NIEA.
In Scotland, if your hydropower generating capacity is:
You must apply for planning permission at the same time you apply to SEPA.
In Northern Ireland, if you want to develop a site for hydropower that is in a conservation area or protected area, you must inform the NIEA.
Protected areas can include:
If your site has archaeological or architectural interest you must inform the NIEA.
In Scotland, if you want to develop a site for hydropower that is in a conservation area or protected area, you must inform NatureScot.
Protected areas can include:
If your site has archaeological or architectural interest you must inform Historic Scotland.
If your hydropower generating capacity is above 500 kilowatts or if your development is in a protected area, you will need to carry out a formal EIA for your scheme. You must submit this to:
Guidance - Noise and vibration management: environmental permits, Guidance - Noise and vibration management: environmental permits
Environmental Plans, Principles and Governance for Northern Ireland – Synopsis of Responses, Public responses to the Discussion Document: Environmental Plans, Principles and Governance
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