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Hydroelectricty Schemes

What is hydroelectricity? Hydro schemes generate electricity by using the power of running water to turn a propeller, or screw, linked to a generating set.

The scale of schemes varies enormously, but all rely on creating a sufficient “head” of water. On a small scale, even where gradients are low, this can be done using a traditional mill race. Bigger schemes can involve increasing the head by using a dam to restrict the flow of water. The introduction of the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) has dramatically increased the viability of schemes on smaller watercourses. Electricity can be used on-site or exported to the National Grid.

Hydro schemes are suitable for any property with a watercourse, but particularly ones in high rainfall areas. Accordingly, the most productive schemes are generally found in the west and north of the UK and, within those regions, in areas with steep gradients to ensure sufficient head. Micro-schemes can be developed across the UK and are abundant across the south of England.

How you benefit

The majority of rural properties, due to their location and often historic nature, will require bespoke renewable energy solutions. Our specialists can appraise your property and provide advice on which technologies would be sensible for your circumstances and how they might work for you.

We have been developing expertise in this field for many years, and as such we have developed a wealth of knowledge and contacts to enable us to provide accurate information and advice. Knight Frank deals with such a diverse range of properties that we have real hands-on experience of how best to improve the environmental credentials, and the productivity of any number of different buildings.



  • Schemes are generally unobtrusive, as the bulk of the pipe work is underground. Often all that is visible is the turbine house and inlet.
  • In high-rainfall areas efficiencies, at circa 60% can greatly exceed wind.
  • Water is free and power can be generated 24/7. In high-rainfall areas, water flows will be fairly predictable on a seasonal basis and over the life of the project (20+ years).


  • Capital intensive due to the considerable infrastructure required. Build costs likely to be at least double that for onshore wind, although comparable returns should be achievable.
  • The environmental impact of schemes can be an issue, particularly on migratory fish. The consent of the Environment Agency in England and Wales, and SEPA in Scotland, is required.