Environment

Portland to generate electricity within its own water pipes

Portland to generate electrici...
A previous LucidPipe installation, with one of the turbines visible inside the pipe (Photo: Lucid Energy)
A previous LucidPipe installation, with one of the turbines visible inside the pipe (Photo: Lucid Energy)
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A previous LucidPipe installation, with one of the turbines visible inside the pipe (Photo: Lucid Energy)
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A previous LucidPipe installation, with one of the turbines visible inside the pipe (Photo: Lucid Energy)
The presence of the turbines reportedly doesn't slow the water's flow rate significantly, so there's virtually no impact on pipeline efficiency (Photo: Lucid Energy)
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The presence of the turbines reportedly doesn't slow the water's flow rate significantly, so there's virtually no impact on pipeline efficiency (Photo: Lucid Energy)
A diagram of the system (Image: Lucid Energy)
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A diagram of the system (Image: Lucid Energy)

There's a lot of water constantly moving through the municipal pipelines of most major cities. While the water itself is already destined for various uses, why not harness its flow to produce hydroelectric power? Well, that's exactly what Lucid Energy's LucidPipe Power System does, and Portland, Oregon has just become the latest city to adopt it.

LucidPipe simply replaces a stretch of existing gravity-fed conventional pipeline, that's used for transporting potable water. As the water flows through, it spins four 42-inch (107-cm) turbines, each one of which is hooked up to a generator on the outside of the pipe. The presence of the turbines reportedly doesn't slow the water's flow rate significantly, so there's virtually no impact on pipeline efficiency.

A diagram of the system (Image: Lucid Energy)
A diagram of the system (Image: Lucid Energy)

The 200-kW Portland system was privately financed by Harbourton Alternative Energy, and its installation was completed late last December. It's now undergoing reliability and efficiency testing, which includes checking that its sensors and smart control system are working properly. It's scheduled to begin full capacity power generation by March.

Once up and running, it's expected to generate an average of 1,100 megawatt hours of energy per year, which is enough to power approximately 150 homes. Over the next 20 years, it should also generate about US$2 million in energy sales to Portland General Electric, which Harbourton plans on sharing with the City of Portland and the Portland Water Bureau in order to offset operational costs. At the end of that period, the Portland Water Bureau will have the right to purchase the system outright, along with all the energy it produces.

For now, the new LucidPipe Power System is the only one in Portland. If it proves successful, however, others may follow. A previously-installed system has been providing power in Riverside, California since 2012.

If you like the basic idea behind the technology, there are smaller similar systems that can be installed within your own home. The Pluvia generates electricity from the flow of rainwater off of rooftops, while the H2O Power radio runs on electricity generated by the flow of shower water.

Source: Lucid Energy

29 comments
Kaiser Derden
If you take energy out of the water then is has to have less energy at the other end of the pipe and that means less pressure and that means extra pumps at the other end to bring the pressure back up ... I'll bet the extra pumps will use more electricity than these turbines generate ... just another green energy scam paid for with taxpayer dollars ...
JweenyPwee
@Kaiser Derden Exactly. That's the only way these projects work. Just use the correct "green" buzzword and it's all good. It's like they know the general public isn't going to think critically or consider basic physics. You cannot, ever, get more energy out of a system than is put into it. If you lower the water pressure along the chain, it will require MORE energy to bring it back to a usable level by the end user. As with anything, follow the money.
Phil Williamson
For starters, it was privately funded. "The 200-kW Portland system was privately financed by Harbourton Alternative Energy." Second. Our water already has plenty of pressure. I take it you don't live in Portland, or you'd not be writing such comments?
mystixa
Sorry, but we don't use pumps to get our water in Portland. Read the article, it states that our system is gravity fed. I do somewhat agree that this could be a bad idea for taking energy out of the system. Apparently there is an excess there that has been built into the system that can be drawn off without harming the overall effectiveness. Until recently the leaks between the mountains and the city were fairly epic and the subject of quite a few photo shoots. Fixing those alone over the last few years would likely keep more pressure in the system then these use.
Matrix Key Systems
The turbines will certainly cause a pressure drop, but being gravity fed they possibly have an over-abundance of pressure anyway; it all depends on the vertical distance between Portland and the dam (and the pipeline diameter). Anyone know this? There are no buzzwords or pumps required here. Hydro-power is absolutely the cleanest form of energy. Essentially it uses only gravity power, nothing else. Sure, you can't create more energy, but you CAN harness more energy out of system. Before, this energy was wasted in household taps blasting out water at high pressures. (not to mention the extra water per second).
Matrix Key Systems
Their website states it only uses excess pressure anyway, so maybe it won't affect end-user pressure at all. Obviously someone studied basic physics, and thought critically.
Foiled
Heh, the energy reduction problem was exactly what I was thinking, but since it's gravity fed, it'll most likely regain the energy a short while after ijt has passed the stretch of turbines, so.. Yeah.. Energy comes into the water, toppes it off, takes a bit out, and it's topped up again..
James Sullivan
Just imagine if JUST FOR ONE DAY people actually read the entire article rather then just looking at the pictures; BEFORE posting opinions based upon unsubstantiated "facts" or personal assumptions.
Tjoe
So why did they use a vertical axis design rather than a turbine? Foiled...once the energy is removed, there is a pressure drop that does not come back. Apparently they can afford some drop. It would seem more efficient at intervals along the falling pipe, rather than at one point but the proximity to electric wires might have determined that. It would never work on a non-gravity feed system to have a net gain.
Austin Garrett
This looks like a good way to get backups in the pipe- lets put a turbine in the pipeline that can catch stuff and back the pipe up! That sounds like an excellent idea!