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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Joao Costa

Scoping The Potential of Stormwater as a Source of Energy

The phenomenon of flooding poses a threat to human lives and wellbeing and can have a
severe economic impact on infrastructure and businesses, causing widespread disruption.
Nonetheless, it generates a surplus of water, whose potential is commonly overlooked and
unexploited. Therefore, the main purpose of this study is to develop a framework which will
support a rapid assessment of whether integrating energy recovery in a stormwater
infrastructure is a viable option for any location. Such combination will turn a singlepurpose
drainage structure into a multi-functional scheme where stormwater generates
energy as it cascades down through the urban system. Ultimately, a systematic screening
tool is designed to outline a set of criteria that define the optimal combination of climate,
topography, hydrology and infrastructure for electricity generation from the stormwater’s
kinetic energy.

The main focus is on small hydroelectric power generation from stormwater outfalls and
storage systems. Due to its ease of installation and relatively low cost, small hydro devices
can provide the necessary flexibility of use that will allow for its integration within the
stormwater drainage infrastructure. Ultimately, the challenges of energy intermittency and
the incompatibilities between energy generation and flood mitigation will be addressed. A
case study is then carried in a specific urban area to closely examine the applicability of the
screening tool.

Fundamentally, the possibility of generating renewable energy can enhance the security of
the local energy supply while contributing to minimising the reliance on fossil fuels.
However, the primary purpose of the stormwater drainage as an answer for flood mitigation
must not be compromised.

Keywords: Stormwater; Renewable Energy; Hydro power.