Want water and clean energy in one? Just turn the faucet.
Portland, Oregon’s biggest and arguably most progressive city, has collaborated with hydropower technology aficionados Lucid Energy to generate clean electricity from an existing and otherwise untapped energy source: the water flowing under the streets of the city.
Excited and proud that the LucidPipe Power System was named one of the top 100 innovative sustainable solutions in the world by Sustainia! http://www.sustainia.me/solutions/
“Water flowing downhill builds up considerable pressure,” Lucid Energy says, “which must be reduced before delivery to customers.” Enter LucidPipe, the spherical turbines that convert water pressure into carbon-free electricity. Tackling Portland’s desire to increase its energy efficiency, pipes containing four 42-inch turbines replaced a section of the city’s water supply network, and the project was inaugurated.
Flowing water causes the turbines to spin, and power generators feed energy back into the city’s electrical grid without disrupting the delivery of clean, fresh water to people’s homes and businesses.
But why is this a good idea?
For one, the system is weatherproof. Lucid Energy explains that solar and wind power rely upon external (thus contingent) conditions. But the hydro-turbines within the municipal water system are exempt from these concerns and can operate at any time of the day or night. The hydropower technology doesn’t impact negatively upon its surrounding environment either, like, say, a dam might.
“It’s pretty rare to find a new source of energy where there’s no environmental impact,” said Lucid Energy’s CEO Gregg Semler, speaking to Fast Company. “But this is inside a pipe, so no fish or endangered species are impacted.”
Second of all, the water turbine system is more than just a clean energy generator. It is also a monitor. Both the condition of the city’s water supply network and the quality of the drinking water can be accurately spied upon for the good of the health and upkeep of the network as a whole.
“Our pipe can get indicators like pressure, a leading indicator for whether a pipe is leaking or not,” Semler continued. “So before it bursts and before we waste all the water, there are onboard information systems that water agencies can get to more precisely manage their infrastructure.”
Thirdly, the gravity-fed water pipelines reduce reliance upon fossil fuels, and we all know that’s a good thing by now.
For the system to be effective and appropriately environmentally friendly, it relies upon gravity. The power generators that convert water turbine cycles into energy need to be installed in pipes where water flows downhill so that gravity (free) eradicates the need for an artificial water pump (expensive).
In March of 2015, the system was put through vital, comprehensive final-stage testing. Project leaders dubbed it the “Conduit 3 Hydroelectric Project,” and according to Good Money, Lucid Energy claimed that the Portland collaboration was the first to entail a 20-year agreement.
Their projections were impressive: the renewable energy gleaned from the water turbines was expected to generate US$2,000,000 worth of renewable energy capacity within two decades. In layman’s terms, that equates to enough electricity to power up to 150 homes per year.
After the money that was spent on the project’s construction and upkeep has been recouped, profits will benefit the project’s investors.
And Lucid Energy? They remain ambitious, hoping to expand into the developing world.