University hopes to use satellites to aid micro hydro development

Satellite

Researchers from the University of Leicester and High Efficiency Heating UK Ltd. are hoping to use satellite data as a means of simplifying the process of locating sites for micro hydro projects.

The partners were awarded a US$201,550 grant from the UK's Technology Strategy Board for work on the 10-month project, which is being called ISMORTASED, or "Identification of Sites for Micro-Hydropower On Rivers Through Applied Satellite and Environmental Data".

The university will use its expertise in geographical information systems (GIS) to develop a method designed to cut costs in identifying potential small hydropower sites.

"Currently, to determine the viability of a stretch of river or stream for micro hydro power, the process is expensive and complex," High Efficiency Heating (HEH) managing director Andy Baxter said. "At present, there's a significant fee to pay to determine whether a particular stretch of river will yield hydropower -- and this is before socioeconomic factors and due processes such as planning applications are taken into account."

Work on the GIS will be coordinated by the university's Department of Geography, which said it will develop a prototype system to combine as many as two dozen data sets to evaluate sites.

"We hope that the widespread proliferation of run-of-river micro hydropower will help towards a stable, green, constant and predictable supply of power in the next few years," Baxter said. "We have to combine electricity storage with a reliable and constant energy source. Hydropower is half of that solution."

Lessons learned from the project could have global implications, according to Dr. Kevin Tansey of the university's geography department.

"The current and growing concerns of climate and energy make this project of interest both nationally and internationally," Tansey said. "The University of Leicester's involvement with commercial organizations to develop tools that are applicable at the local scale globally is exciting and timely."

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