In the ‘sharing economy’ we have seen numerous examples of how underutilized resources can be put to work in our everyday lives. Interestingly enough, this concept of thought applies to other areas of a more industrial kind as well. As we will see, the movement of water taking place under the surface of almost all developed cities, at all times, is now capable of generating green energy.
Lucid Energy, Inc. is a provider of renewable energy and smart water management solutions that want to improve the economics of delivering water. This sustainable energy company from Portland, Oregon, has developed a quite ingenious innovation in form of the LucidPipe. As it turns out, the company’s solution is actually able to harvest low-cost renewable energy from the water flowing through gravity-fed city pipes, and constitutes an excellent example of how clever companies can harvest green energy from the inherent and underutilized potential in existing infrastructure.
According to Penn Energy, The LucidPipe Power System uses the gravity-fed flow of water inside a pipeline to spin four 42-inch turbines that are now producing electricity for Portland General Electric customers under a 20-year power purchase agreement with the utility. The turbines connect to a generator on top of the pipe, and are in this way producing hydroelectric power. WaterWorld writes that the system, which was installed at no cost to the water agency and the city, is the first project in the U.S. to secure a two-decade power purchase agreement for green energy produced by in-pipe hydropower in a municipal water pipeline. This is what the solution looks like conceptually:
The earlier mentioned and above displayed turbines, which are ball-shaped and modularly installed into large-diameter pipelines, each has an individual output capacity between 20 and 100 kW, depending on the flow and pressure head, according to HydroWorld. Although the solution is undoubtedly very smart, the idea behind it is also grand in all its simplicity (at least it is quite simple considering that we are dealing with large scale technology). The CEO Gregg Semler tells Oregon Live that an incredible idea does not have to be complex in thought, rather the other way around:
“We’re simply recapturing a waste stream that’s embedded into water agencies’ largest asset”
Moreover, the CEO explains to Mother Nature Network how the company’s solution creates a win-win situation for all the parties involved:
“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. 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”
The pipes can be installed in any system where water flows downward naturally with gravity. It is a viable, green option for any infrastructure that already has a vast amount of water flowing through its operations. As Springwise thoughtfully puts it, these could include municipalities, industrial manufacturers and wastewater treatment plants, where benefits would also be gained from the pipe’s inbuilt sensors, designed to monitor water pressure and identify potential problems. Be sure to check out the video below, which is picturing a live installation of the solution and some intriguing words from the CEO:
Conclusively, the benefit that the solution carries with it is that the electricity the turbines are generating can be utilized to counterbalance the energy required to supply water for residents of the cities around our globe. Hydrogen Fuel News reports that the in-pipe hydropower system Lucid Energy installed in Portland is its second project. It first installed in-pipe turbines in Riverside, California. Regarding the future, the company says that eventually projects could be established in more municipalities including California, Arizona, and even China and Korea. According to the Portland Business Journal, representatives of cities in Brazil, Germany and Australia have expressed interest as well.
At the moment the pipe is merely being tested, but it should begin producing green energy at full effect in late March this year.