Atmos sounds alarm over fall in tariff payments for small hydro-power schemes

Greg Fullarton, Regional Director, Atmos Consulting
Greg Fullarton, Regional Director, Atmos Consulting

With grid energy prices increasing – and Feed in Tariff (FiT) rates falling for small hydro – there has never been a greater incentive for individuals and communities to complete projects on time and benefit from the best FiT rates.

And environment specialist Atmos Consulting has also warned that delays may prove costly. The government introduced a system of annual degression in April 2014. For hydropower this means that the FiT is expected to reduce by 5% a year.

However, once a hydropower site has planning consent and a firm grid offer it is possible to pre-register for the FiT at the current rate, but completion must then be within two years. Miss that deadline, and the FiT rate applied will be the latest, lower rate.

As the FiT is fixed for 20 years and index-linked, this can make a big difference over the life of the project.

Developers  should also beware that poor construction practice resulting in pollution can halt a project.  Earlier this year a hydro scheme on the River Lyon in Perthshire was visited by SEPA officials following reports from local residents of silt escaping into the water which could threaten aquatic wildlife.

Greg Fullarton, Regional Director, Atmos Consulting, said: “Any breaks in construction because of unforeseen issues could have significant financial implications for schemes like this and the communities that they will serve.

“We would always suggest that environmental services and monitoring should not be an integral part of the feasibility, planning and construction phases, not a bolt on” 

Atmos Principal GIS Consultant Tom Hartley, was a nominee in the Energy and Entrepreneurship category of the 2015 Heriot-Watt Researcher of the Year Awards, sponsored by Scottish Energy News.

Heading up Atmos’ in-house GIS team, Tom has worked for the multi-disciplinary environmental consultancy since it first started trading in 2007. In that time he has driven the development of a bespoke GIS system that incorporates data modelling, site identification, data management and visualisation, working on analysis and figure production supporting the submission of over 100 planning applications for renewable projects.

The resulting bespoke GIS interface enables Atmos to produce sophisticated models to automate and simplify complex analysis tasks. This has helped the company deliver an exceptionally high standard of service for clients, as well as improving the efficiency, speed and cost effectiveness of internal business processes.

Providing an example of the complex modelling projects he has been nominated for, Tom commented ‘One of the modelling projects I have worked on is the development of a set of GIS tools and maps to estimate grid connection costs at pre-feasibility stage.

“Potential renewable energy projects such as wind farms are often constrained by connection costs and available capacity, so these tools allow us to advise clients prior to expensive feasibility studies or consultation with network operators, helping reduce risk and inefficiencies in project planning.’

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