Organisations, businesses and individuals wanting to develop small-scale schemes to generate electricity through water power are being given a boost by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA).

It has launched the Small-Scale Hydro Power Feasibility Fund to help pay for feasibility studies to explore the potential of hydro projects at promising sites in the Dales.

William Weston, the YDNPA's Member Champion for Climate Change, said: "The authority is actively encouraging small-scale hydro power.

"Well-designed schemes offer a significant opportunity for renewable energy to be generated in a way that can help to contribute to carbon reduction targets, conserve and enhance important industrial heritage and benefit isolated communities.

"Government incentives, particularly the new Feed-In Tariffs (or FITS) introduced earlier last are now making water-power an increasingly attractive investment. "The new tariff, which is guaranteed for 20 years, offers payments on top of the sale value even if householders and communities use the electricity themselves. However, there is no guarantee that this lucrative Government support will continue indefinitely so, if you have a promising site and are interested in development, it would seem to make sense to act sooner rather than later."

Moya Turrell, the authority's Sustainable Development Officer, said: "Most of the current funding schemes focus on large-scale projects and there is little cash available for funding feasibility studies - which are critical for assessing the potential of sites and ensuring a good investment. "Our new fund aims to plug this gap in the Yorkshire Dales. The Authority has approved a three-year, £180,000 budget starting in 20010/11 that will provide grants of up to £5,000 towards the cost of hydro feasibility studies.

"The fund is primarily for the most promising sites identified in a study we commissioned in 2008 but it can assist other sites as well.

"In addition to grant assistance, we have also pulled together a small working team dedicated to dealing with consultations on sites within the National Park. This includes officers from this Authority, the Environment Agency and Natural England who are all involved with consultations on hydro development."