Portland Harnesses Tap-Water Hydropower from Small Start-Up Business

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By on March 5, 2020

A new, less expensive, zero-impact, renewable source of energy is literally on the block.

In-pipe hydropower.

The city of Portland receives its electricity from several sources (both clean and renewable) and has added a new one recently: hydropower that comes from turbine drinking water pipes.

These turbine pipes, when installed on a hill, use the natural force of gravity and flowing water being delivered to homes and businesses to spin turbines.

The water flows, it turns the turbines, and the turbines are connected to a generator. 

From the generator the electricity goes through power electronics and ties to the grid on the street.

The company which provides this new technology is called Lucid Energy. Their mission is, “To turn millions of miles of gravity-fed water pipelines around the world into generators of clean, environmentally-friendly, renewable energy from in-pipe hydropower.”

Portland’s power comes largely from a coal-fired plant as well as other renewable sources such as solar and wind power. But what’s exciting about Lucid’s new innovation is that it’s not only three to four times cheaper than solar and wind power, the turbine pipes have zero environmental impact.

Lucid is the first company to harvest energy from gravity-fed drinking water pipes, found throughout Portland. And their start-up company (run by a handful bike-riding engineers) are in negotiations to set up similar systems in other cities such as San Antonio and New York City, as well as other interested countries.

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One 4-turbine pipe supplies enough electricity for roughly 150 homes!

Lucid Energy just started operating last year and has a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement with Portland General Electric, the local power utility, to purchase energy generated by the LucidPipe system.

A great benefit of this internal turbine pipe system is that it doesn’t harm nature or wildlife. 

Typically hydropower is collected by damming off a natural river flow and then releasing the water to spin turbines and collect power in that way. Hydropower that utilizes dams can damage rivers as well as the safety of fish and other aquatic life.

The electricity generated from these turbine pipes is considered “free” because there is no energy input into the system. The Lucidpipe simply collects energy from something that already exists, which is the water supplied by a municipality.

The pipe also works around the clock – similar to Lucid’s team members. They spend their days thinking of new ways to improve this renewable energy source.

Lucid engineers are currently developing the second generation LucidPipe turbine design. “This design will utilize advanced manufacturing technologies, significantly increase power output, operate across a wider range of pipe sizes and flows and significantly reduce capital cost. Dollars-per-kilowatt is our key metric.”

These turbine pipes have incredible potential to positively impact our planet and we hope to see their project take off around the globe!

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