Investing in a Small Scale Hydro Power

Return on Investment

In Canada, investing in a small scale hydro power is an excellent way to secure a good income stream and minimize the impact of harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Return on investment is based on whether you use an existing site or a new build as well as the maximum power input. For example, if the maximum power input is 100 kW, then the return on investment for an existing site is 11 percent and for a new build – 6 percent. If the maximum power input is just 25 kW, then the return is 6 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

Types of Plants and Capacity

A small scale hydro power with a power output between 1 and 10 MW is capable of producing energy for local communities. It is also capable of producing energy for the regional grid. A medium power plant, on the other hand, can generate electricity for medium size urban centers. Large plants are best for large urban centers while mini scale plants can produce power for isolated communities. There are also pico and micro plants for up to two houses and small communities respectively.

Water Infrastructure

Existing infrastructure is an important factor and especially the water infrastructure. There are different ways to implement a hydropower plant within a water infrastructure, including on a compensation discharge, after or before wastewater treatment, within an irrigation or drinking water network, and so on. This depends on resources, hydropower scheme, and other factors.

A Business Plan

Once you have all the details such as location, maximum power input, etc., it is time to develop a good business plan to obtain external financing. A comprehensive plan normally includes details such as a procurement strategy, financial projections, income and expenditure, communication strategy, and risk assessment. It is a good idea to include things like environmental, social, and economic benefits, project plan, and management capacity. A business plan for a small scale hydro power plant usually includes details such as a ballot report and paper, letters of support, and map of proposed scheme. Other details to cover in your business plan include ecology surveys, detailed feasibility study, and pre-feasibility study. Keep in mind that some of these might take a lot of time to complete, and it pays to plan in advance. Standard sections to cover include business and project objectives, executive summary, site geography, and project background. Investors are also interested in details such as operational management, capacity to manage resources and land, working partners, and so on.


Financing under Government Programs and by Private Lenders

With a detailed business plan on your hands you have better chances of getting approved for multiple sources of financing. These include secured and unsecured loans by banks and other private providers, business credit cards, and government-sponsored loans. Funding under the Canada Small Business Financing Program is a good way to take advantage of lower than average rates. Financing is offered to applicants who need cash to cover registration fees, leasehold improvements, whether existing or new, as well as used and new machinery and equipment, and buildings, facilities, and land. A loan by a bank, credit union, or finance company is also an option, but the rate can be higher, especially for unsecured loans. Credit unions usually offer very good rates, and this is an option worth exploring if you are a union member. Check different business credit cards as well as business lines of credit as this can be a source of additional funds for your project.

Water Safety in Ontario

Damns and stations are an important source of power in Canada and provide about 60 percent of electricity. However, they are located in areas that are often used by hikers, anglers, swimmers, and boaters. Water safety can be a source of concern in Ontario around dams and hydroelectric stations. The reason is that more than 30 percent of electricity is generated by hydroelectric stations that are remotely controlled. This means that operators control water levels in stations by closing and opening dams. The goal is to secure constant power supply while demand drops and rises during different times of the day. Water can become turbulent and hence dangerous, and it is important to follow safety advice.

Facts and Figures

There are more than 500 dams and over 210 stations currently operating in Ontario. Over 3,000 dams are in operation throughout Ontario for the purpose of navigation, irrigation, and flood prevention and control. They are owned by different institutions and businesses, including businesses, landowners, the Conservation Authorities, the federal and provincial authorities, and municipalities. Some stations are owned by Ontario Power Generation while others by Lakeland Holding, Brookfield Renewable Power, Energy Ottawa, and others. The list of hydroelectric stations and dams in Ontario is long. Examples include the Barrett Chute Station, Auburn Generating Station, Appleton Hydroelectric Dam, Andrew Generating Station, and many others. Some damns and stations were constructed in the 1920s and earlier while others are still under construction such as the Island Falls Generating Station-Mattagami. They are located throughout Ontario, including Thunder Bay, Trent Hills, Amelia Island Ottawa, Aux Sables River, and elsewhere.

Water Safety Advice near Hydroelectric Dams

Experts highlight the importance of obeying barriers, booms, buoys, fences, and signs that designate unsafe areas. Examples of warning signs include "Dam Outflow Keep Out" and Dam Ahead Keep Out", and so on. The most important thing is to keep a safe distance outside of unsafe areas, especially at times when boating, fishing, snowmobiling, and so on. Unsafe areas also include areas with ice below and above as well as the edge of waters. Remember that water can become dangerous within minutes and even seconds due to water level constantly changing. Keep in mind that hydroelectric stations are there to generate electricity. They are not recreation facilities, snowmobiling areas, or swimming and boating areas. Dams are definitely not parks or parking areas. The same goes for lakes, rivers, and other water sources near hydroelectric facilities. Ice fishing, skating, and cross-country skiing can be dangerous.

What Else Not to Do

It is unsafe to treat hydroelectric stations as areas for picnicking, camping, walks in nature, and other recreational activities. The reason is that operators control facilities remotely and cannot see you. Water levels change during winter as well. This is because hydroelectric stations operate throughout the year and affect ice conditions. In fact, during winter, conditions are more dangerous because ice around facilities is often thinner compared to other areas. It is less consistent when it comes to thickness as well. Water safety is a key priority throughout the year, and it is important to keep employees and visitors safe at and near hydroelectric facilities. Stations can be both hazardous and unsafe if safety rules and warnings are not obeyed.

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