Portland Is Now Sourcing Hydropower From Its Drinking Water

Thanks to an innovative new system designed to generate electricity from turbines installed in city water pipes, residents in Portland can turn on the tap and find both water and an energy source in the same place.


Feb. 7 2019, Updated 1:26 p.m. ET

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Source: Pixabay

The show Portlandia might poke fun at the progressive politics of Portland but the city's forward-thinking ways are creating major benefits for the people that live there. 

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Portland residents may soon find their energy source powered by their drinking water thanks to Portland based startup, Lucid Energy, that has designed a new system to generate electricity from turbines installed in city water pipes.

The city of Portland replaced an area of its current water supply network with Lucid Energy pipes containing four forty-two inch turbines. The way the turbines work is by spinning as water passes through them, converting excess head pressure into electricity. Multiple turbines can be mounted in series, one after the other, to maximize energy output.

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Source: Lucid Energy

According to a Lucid Energy, this will be the “first project in the U.S. to secure a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for renewable energy produced by in-pipe hydropower in a municipal water pipeline." 

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Fast Company points out that, in order to be cost and energy effective, Portland’s new power generators must be installed in pipes where water flows downhill, without having to be pumped, as the energy necessary to pump the water would negate the subsequent energy gleaned.

They also note that the innovative system offers more than just providing electricity: It has the ability to monitor both the overall condition of a city’s water supply network as well as assess the drinking quality of the water flowing through it.

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“It’s pretty rare to find a new source of energy where there’s no environmental impact. But this is inside a pipe, so no fish or endangered species are impacted. That’s what’s exciting," said Gregg Semler, CEO of Lucid Energy.

A system like this could prove to have a major impact in places like California where 20% of total energy use goes into the water supply. “There’s a lot of energy in going into making sure we have safe clean drinking water,” Semler says. “Our focus is really on helping water become more sustainable.”

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Once the installation is fully operational, it's expected to generate $2,000,000 worth of renewable energy capacity over twenty years, based on “an average of 1,100 megawatt hours of energy per year, enough electricity to power up to 150 homes." The money generated will be used for system maintenance, recouping the cost of construction, and  split among the project’s investors.

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