New guidance published this week will make it more straightforward for hydropower schemes to be developed in Wales and protect rivers and the wildlife that lives there.
The guidance, which has been developed by Natural Resources Wales alongside the hydropower industry and fishing and wildlife groups, will advise how much water can be used for electricity generation without damaging the river.
A new assessment checklist has also been developed that will allow developers to consider at the very early stages of project development, how much water could be available on certain rivers before they consider applying for the necessary permissions.
There are also plans in the first half of 2014 to review Natural Resources Wales’ permitting process to look for ways to make it quicker for developers to get approval for sustainable hydropower schemes.
Hydropower schemes can cause lower water levels in rivers between the points where the water is taken out and where it is put back into the river after passing through the turbine.
River levels and day to day changes in the natural flow of the river are essential to protect important wildlife habitats for spawning fish and other species.
Natural Resources Wales has provided additional guidance to help hydropower developers to develop sustainable schemes in the right places, which are designed and operated in the right way.
A hydropower working group consisting of developers, community groups, angling groups and other environmental organisations has been established to work together to help the industry in Wales develop sustainably for the long term.
Ceri Davies from Natural Resources Wales said:
“Hydropower in Wales has the potential to make a real difference for farmers, landowners and community groups, to help their economic and environmental sustainability on a local level.
“We are in the process of making the whole process for hydropower developers simpler and faster and we are grateful for the involvement of the industry and fisheries and wildlife groups in our work.
“This guidance will enable the generation of energy from our natural water resources, whilst protecting our water environment and other water users.”
The new guidance will come into force in 12 weeks time to give the hydropower industry an opportunity to prepare.