Do I need permission to install a micro hydro system?

If you are planning to divert more than 20 cubic metres (20m3, equal to 20,000 litres or about 4,400 gallons) of water per day from a watercourse to put through a micro hydro turbine then you will need an abstraction licence - even though the water is going back into the watercourse after going through the turbine. Virtually all small hydro projects will require such a license, as even a flow rate of 1 litre per second amounts to 86m3 per day.

The abstraction license must be sought from the Environment Agency (in England and Wales, or SEPA in Scotland), who will assess effects on river ecology. It's worth contacting them in good time, as the process could take a few months.

Certain environmental protection measures will generally be linked to the permission given. These include leaving a certain flow in the river (i.e. abstracting only a proportion) and putting in place screening and perhaps a fish pass or ladder.

For information about abstraction licences, and the bodies involved in giving permission in different parts of the UK, see this government webpage:

https://www.gov.uk/topic/environmental-management/water

Larger schemes may involve additional permissions, for example if a reservoir is included.

You'll also need to contact the local planning office, as planning permission is usually required (unless perhaps an old hydro scheme is being refurbished) for the installation of the structures and pipework involved.

There's also a guide on planning a micro hydro scheme available on the British Hydro Association website:

http://www.british-hydro.org/Useful%20Information/mini_hydro_guide

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