This is the latest in a battery of questions we have been asking or being asked. These questions are beyond the nuts, bolts, Kw’s and cash. Mark Walton is now drafting the social impact aspect of a community hydro and he has focused on what are perceived to be more difficult to measure and intangible aspects. ie to a community what difference do renewables make beyond the obvious cash injection.
The next question on our list is “what does the carbon budget look like for a hydro?” I have seen a lot of steel, ductile iron, concrete, machinery, helicopters and so on being invested into the making of a ‘sustainable’ energy system. But in terms of a carbon balance sheet such as inputs and outputs what are we talking about? In a life cycle analysis format what does the carbon payback look like? It’s a question which is often asked of more perceived contentious renewables such as wind and to some extent PV. But what of a hydro? It is difficult to get the data in terms of materials and processes. We have now teamed up with the University of Bangor team working on the ‘Hydro BPT’ project and one of the aims of the project is to understand the life cycle aspect of a hydro. They have good data sets (including the carbon footprint of a helicopter!) We have agreed to work in partnership to get a handle on the carbon budget of the Snowdon Hydro.
We are also looked further ahead to see if we could work towards a form of carbon decision-making tool. For example we know the cash difference between ductile iron pipe and MDPE but what does it mean in terms of carbon? Turbine building fabric, fly ash in the concrete mix and so on. Bangor’s work so far on certain hydros has shown a staggeringly quick payback in terms of Carbon but the data needs improving and I hope we can help and have one of the first high head hydros to have a full and detailed carbon payback budget. Lets see?