Power to Portland: Water and Energy for the Price of One?

Does paying the same price for both water and energy use sound too good to be true? The city of Portand (Oregon) is testing this possibility by harvesting the energy potential of gravity-fed water moving through its city pipes to produce clean energy.

Working together with Portland-based startup Lucid Energy, the city is piloting this “smart water” technology and will sell the energy it produces to offset some of the costs of running the system. By installing small hydroelectric generators inside one of the main pipes that carries drinking water to the city, it will be able to generate enough electricity to power 150 homes. In its public-private partnership with the city, Lucid Energy is funding the $2 million, 20-year project and will share the revenues from the electricity sold to the city’s utility, Portland General Electric.

The benefits don’t stop here. The in-pipe hydro turbines don’t disrupt stream flows or wildlife. Unlike solar and wind, the energy flow of water running through city pipes is constant. And because the mini-turbines – which are locally manufactured – are designed  to be installed within the distributed infrastructure of water pipes, remote locations that don’t have their own electrical grid can generate their own power. Another benefit – especially obvious in light of the continuing drought in western states – comes from sensors that can monitor water pressure and leaks that may prevent pipes from bursting and avoid millions of gallons of wasted water.

Innovations at the energy-water nexus – focused on solutions at the interdependencies of water conservation and climate change – have exciting applications to cities across the country, especially in places like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Dallas that use more than the 13% national average of total energy used to distribute water to its residents, agriculture, and businesses.

By Adele Peters | FastCompany

Portland’s new pipes harvest power from drinking water

Turn on the tap and you’re getting water and energy for the price of one.

If you live in Portland, your lights may now be partly powered by your drinking water. An ingenious new system captures energy as water flows through the city’s pipes, creating hydropower without the negative environmental effects of something like a dam.

Small turbines in the pipes spin in the flowing water, and send that energy into a generator.

“It’s pretty rare to find a new source of energy where there’s no environmental impact,” says Gregg Semler, CEO of Lucid Energy, the Portland-based startup that designed the new system. “But this is inside a pipe, so no fish or endangered species are impacted. That’s what’s exciting.”

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