Atmos shows the way to hydro planning consent

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Consultancy celebrating 10 out of 10 on run-of-river hydro schemes.

A significant barrier to streamlined planning consent for small run-of-river hydro schemes has been removed by Atmos Consulting, whose Acoustics & Noise team is celebrating a 100% record of success for its work. Atmos can now call on its investment in collecting readings from operational schemes, and so develop realistic noise predictions for what are typically going to be bespoke systems. It is clearly an approach that is satisfying local authorities, because all 10 of the projects Atmos provided noise impact assessments or EIA noise chapters for during 2013 have now been granted approval.

The perfect record was completed by recent formal planning approvals at Carie Burn and Strathtay in Scotland.

Many manufacturers don’t have or share data on how noisy their equipment is; not least because each turbine/generator set is bespoke. As a result it can be very difficult to predict noise levels. Having recognised the information gap as a potential planning constraint, Atmos decided to invest in acquiring data from as many operational sites as possible, covering different power outputs and different turbine types. The consultancy now has an objective basis from which to make realistic predictions.

“We’re delighted that the approach we have developed is proving so successful,” said Jim Singleton, who heads Atmos Consulting’s Acoustics & Noise consultancy team.

“None of our assessments have been called in by an environmental health officer wanting extra information. As the new sites become operational, not only is the robustness of our source data endorsed, but we are also able to add to our ever expanding hydro noise database.”

Atmos’ assessments for the schemes included the following noise consultancy activities:

• Baseline noise monitoring,

• Powerhouse internal noise measurement,

• Noise propagation modelling, and

• Consultation with Environmental Health Officers and regulatory bodies.

While the projects Atmos has worked on are mostly concentrated in Scotland, Atmos offices across the UK have been receiving enquiries about small hydro, which is undoubtedly a growing market.

Atmos Consulting GIS Manager Tom Hartley said: “It was a logical step for us to integrate the noise data into our in-house GIS system. We now have bespoke modelling tools that can generate good noise predictions for any projected hydro scheme, wherever it may be.

“By utilising our GIS expertise, we can offer developers a service that is both quick and remarkably cost effective.”

List of Atmos’ 2013 small hydro successes:

• Rumbling Bridge, Perth and Kinross: 500kW Francis turbine

• Larairidh, Highlands: 486kW twin jet Pelton turbine

• Allt Garbh, Highlands: 2 of 850kW twin jet Pelton turbines

• Abhaiann Gleann nam Fiadh, Highlands: 2 of 1MW twin jet Pelton turbines

• Allt na h-Imrich, Highlands: 450kW Turgo turbine

• Camps Reservoir, Lanarkshire: 65kW Francis turbine

• Udston SR, Hamilton: 75.8kW turbine

• Afon Gafr, Nant Peris, Snowdonia: 330kW Pelton turbine

• Carie Burn Hydro Electric Scheme, Loch Rannoch, Perthshire: 500kW turbine

• Strathtay hydro scheme, Tullypowrie Burn, Perthshire, 300kw turbine


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