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Scotland Aims to be a World-Leading Hydro Nation

The Scottish government has set out its vision to develop Scotland into a world-leading hydro nation as a means of integrating sustainability into its infrastructure.

Scottish ministers’ ambitious hydro nation strategy will see Scottish Water, “generate 5 percent of the country’s electricity through wind farms, water turbines and gas produced by sewage plants,” according to The Scotsman newspaper.

Developing a hydro nation will engage many parts of Scotland’s economy and society. But central to these plans will be publicly owned water utility Scottish Water.

Water is one of Scotland’s primary assets. Scottish Water is the fourth-largest water and wastewater service provider in the UK. At £1.1 billion annually, the state-owned utility is one of Scotland’s largest businesses by revenue. It also owns about 70,000 acres, including high ground with great potential value for onshore wind and hydro schemes – an asset that plays a large role in the overall vision.

Putting a Plan into Action

Launching his consultation paper “Building a Hydro Nation,” First Minister Alex Salmond spoke of the crucial role that could be played by Scottish Water in providing sustainable, green energy.

“Scottish Water is the largest consumer of electricity in Scotland. It consumes about 1.5 percent of Scotland’s electricity. A very modest estimate of the generating capacity in the 70,000 acres that Scottish Water has as land holdings would be three or four times that. In other words, this company could generate 5 percent on its own land – not just from wind, but hydro and other energy projects, for about 5 percent of Scottish energy needs.”

Minister Salmond explained how some of this could be accomplished.

“It means turning reservoirs into hydro dams, putting water turbines into high-pressure water pipes and putting wind turbines into Scottish Water land.”

Scotland is a water-rich country and has the wettest climate in the United Kingdom. About 1.9 percent of land surface in Scotland is covered by freshwater, with around 70 percent of the area and 90 percent of the volume of all the UK’s inland surface water found in Scotland.

The recently introduced Water Resources (Scotland) Bill advances the government’s wish to develop the value of Scotland’s abundant water resources in economic, social and environmental terms. The bill plays a strong role in the good governance of this critical global resource.

According to Alex Neil, whilst serving as Scottish government’s Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment, “The new law will ensure Scotland’s water has a sustainable future, helping to boost our low carbon economy and creating jobs.”

Included within the bill are specific proposals to create a new duty on Scottish Water to promote the use of its assets for the generation of renewable energy, whilst safeguarding the fulfilment of its core water and sewerage functions.

Hydropower is a commercial technology, long established in Scotland, which contributes around 10 percent to Scotland’s total current energy generation. Most output is produced by large-scale hydro schemes. Scottish Water is boosting its hydropower capacity through the development of hydro turbines to deliver an additional 25,000 megawatt-hours per year from existing assets by 2015.

For example, Scottish Water’s new gravity-fed water treatment works, designed and built by Black & Veatch at Glencorse near Edinburgh, incorporates an on-site hydro turbine that provides two-thirds of the facility’s energy needs.

Ian McMillan, who is leading the work for Scottish Water’s Capital Investment and Delivery division, said, “ This is a key part of our Climate Change Strategy and will substantially reduce our carbon footprint.”

Evaluating Potential Project Sites

Through its role in Scottish Water’s hydropower programme, Black & Veatch is supporting the delivery of the hydro nation plans. Initial studies have identified more than 30 sites with the potential for cost-effective hydropower generation. In its role as one of Scottish Water’s design-and-build contractors, Black & Veatch was chosen to evaluate eight of these sites.

According to John Marshall, Contracts Manager for Black & Veatch’s global water business, the first stage of the work is to develop the initial feasibility data to Capex 3 stage – fully scoped, priced and 70 percent design complete. “The turbine selection process and scheme design should identify the best commercial solution for each site, taking into account the annual generation requirement and the capital costs,”
he said.

Following completion of the scheme design to Capex 3, each site was reviewed by Scottish Water and ranked on its ability to meet programme dates, deliver the forecast annual generation figures, and the scheme’s 25-year net present value. Of the eight schemes evaluated by Black & Veatch, three are already progressing to detailed design. At another two sites, further work with local planning authorities is required before detailed design commences.

Some of the principal challenges the hydro projects present are common to many water projects. These include installing new equipment in existing water infrastructure without interrupting service, ensuring each scheme is able to deliver efficient performance, and delivering reliability with minimal impact from servicing and repair. Other challenges, such as working with power utility networks to incorporate new or upgraded equipment to feed back into the grid, are specific to hydro and other renewable projects.

Scottish ministers’ hydro nation agenda also sets priorities for action on developing domestic and international trade and technology innovation. It includes working with developing nations on practical water projects and promoting Scotland’s academic excellence in water-related fields.

Subject Matter Experts
Colin Douglas: DouglasC@bv.com

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