Portland Taps Its Own Water Pipes for Power

Think of all the potential energy flowing between any major American city’s water pipelines. The Portland-based renewables company Lucid Energy did, and thanks to investor backing and amenable city officials, Portland is now a model for how optimization of that resource might look. In January, plans to produce electricity for Portland General Electric using the LucidPipe Power System and relying on water-flow from a Portland Water Bureau (PWB) pipeline were finalized, PennEnergy and other outlets report.

LucidPipe

The city of Riverside, California, began piloting a smaller, similar project using LucidPipe technologies to generate hydropower from a municipal pipeline back in 2012, but Portland’s project is the first to get a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA), PennEnergy reports. Neither PWB nor the city of Portland are shouldering any installation costs. Funding for the project was established in October 2014, with Harbourton Enterprises subsidiary Harbourton Alternative Energy providing capital. Energy production will begin over the next two months, relying on four 42” turbines powered by the gravity-fed flow of water inside a PWB pipeline. The Portland Water Bureau and Harbourton will share revenues, PennEnergy reports. After 20 years, PWB will have the right to own the system and energy production.

While Portland’s model will use captured energy to feed the grid, Fast Company points out that such a system could alternately be used for a different benefit—allowing water utilities to provide clean drinking water more cheaply by offsetting high electricity costs. Here are some other perks: the system isn’t weather sensitive like wind or solar power, and no wildlife is impacted, since the water exists inside a pipe rather than a natural habitat.

Bloomberg points out that Lucid Energy’s technology can be installed in drinking water or wastewater pipes. PennEnergy reports that the company has secured private funding from “a very active syndicate of investors including Northwest Pipe Company, the Israeli hybrid venture capital/crowdsourcing platform OurCrowd, Star Energy and the Harbourton Fund as well as more than $1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.” That money will be used to commercialize LucidPipe technology globally.

Founded in 2007, Lucid Energy raised a $1.5 million Series A funding in December, 2012 from OurCrowd, Northwest Pipe Company, and Star Energy.

Tags: Hydro

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