Green Technology Spotlight: Energy From Water Pipelines

Who would think of generating energy from inside a water pipeline?

Portland, Oregon is trying it out, having just switched on the LucidPipeTM Power System in one of its major water pipelines.

Developed by Lucid Energy, turbines spaced inside the pipe use gravity-fed water flows to create electricity. It’s hydro without the negative environmental impacts.

Four, 42" turbines are now producing electricity and selling it to utility Portland General Electric under a 20-year power purchase agreement. This initial project will serve about 150 homes and revenues will be shared with Portland Water Bureau. After 20 years, the water agency will have the right to own the system and the energy it produces.

Lucid Pipe

The system was first installed in San Antonio, TX and Riverside, CA’s water system, and this is the first power purchase agreement.

Turbines come in a range of sizes and each can generate as much as 100 kilowatts of electricity. A single pipeline can produce over 1 megawatt for $0.05-$0.09 cents per kilowatt-hour. 

"Water agencies are looking for ways to be more energy efficient, energy utilities are seeking more renewable sources of energy and investors are seeking opportunities in smart water and energy infrastructure," says Gregg Semler, CEO of Lucid. "The industry is looking to Portland as an example of how all of these entities can partner to take advantage of in-pipe hydropower to generate investment returns and reduce the cost of delivering clean, safe drinking water."

Seems like a great idea, producing clean energy – instead of paying for it – reduces the costs of supplying water. It opens the door for municipal, industrial, and agricultural facilities to generate clean, reliable, low-cost electricity from their gravity-fed water pipelines and effluent streams.

The company is pursuing commercialization worldwide, supported by investors that include Northwest Pipe Company (which co-developed the technology), Star Energy and the Harbourton Fund, and individuals through OurCrowd – a crowdsourcing platform. The US Department of Energy also chipped in $1 million. 

Read our article about another innovation in Portland: Portland, Oregon Gets First Light Rail With Supercapacitors.

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