Small-scale hydropower under the microscope at Sydney workshop

14 May 2014

Chief Scientist & Engineer, Professor Mary O'Kane, has today opened a workshop on small-scale hydropower development in New South Wales.

The workshop, organised by NSW Renewable Energy Advocate Amy Kean, is exploring the suitability of small-scale hydropower projects as an energy source, the cost, and possible environmental impacts.

In opening the workshop, Professor O'Kane particularly praised the work undertaken by NSW Department of Primary Industries' fish ecologist Craig Boys and his team – their project, 'Downstream fish passage criteria for hydropower and irrigation infrastructure in the Murray-Darling Basin', was funded through a grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to Waratah Power.

"Craig Boys and his team at DPI really has laid the groundwork for progressing a strategy for the implementation of small-scale hydropower at existing dams and weirs, through their evidence-based approach to identifying potential environmental risks, in this case to migrating fish populations, and ways to mitigate those risks," Professor O'Kane said.

The Workshop on the Strategy for Downstream Fish Passage and Mini-Hydropower Development at Existing Dams and Weirs in NSW and Beyond brings together representatives from state and federal government, the renewable energy sector, as well as civil and hydraulic engineers, natural resource managers, international fish biologists, and community representatives.

They will examine the economic and environmental sustainability of small-scale hydropower projects across New South Wales.

"NSW already uses large dam hydropower in some catchments and its hydropower capacity is the greatest of any state and territory in Australia," Professor O'Kane said.

Ms Kean indicated that the state has a lot of infrastructure along its waterways to retain, control and divert water, and it has been suggested that it might be possible on some of those structures to operate small-scale hydropower.