Portland Is Sourcing Hydropower From Water Pipeline
Portland goes green with innovative water pipes doesn’t immediately call to mind thoughts of civil engineering and hydro-electric power. And yet, that’s exactly what Oregon’s largest city has done by partnering with a company called Lucid Energy to generate clean electricity from the water already flowing under its streets and through its pipes.Its iconic bronze drinking fountains (also known as Benson Bubblers) have been gushing with cool, clean water during daylight hours since 1912. And most recently, LucidEnergy—a Portland-based startup that launched in 2007—has discovered a way to use the city’s drinking water to generate electricity without any negative environmental impacts.
Portland has replaced a section of its existing water supply network with Lucid Energy pipes containing four forty-two inch turbines. As water flows through the pipes, the turbines spin and power attached generators, which then feed energy back into the city’s electrical grid. Known as the “Conduit 3 Hydroelectric Project,” Portland’s new clean energy source is scheduled to be up and running at full capacity in March. According to a Lucid Energy FAQ detailing the partnership, this will be the “first project in the U.S. to secure a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for renewable energy produced by in-pipe hydropower in a municipal water pipeline.”
As water flows through the pipes freely, the turbines spin, collecting excess energy that is then purchased by Portland General Electric, and put on the city’s power grid. Portland has installed 50 feet of so-called “LucidPipes,” which generate an average of 1,100 megawatt-hours of electricity every year. That’s enough renewable energy to power about 150 homes.
Replacing existing infrastructure with LucidPipe also costs money, and requires coordination between a given city’s electrical and water utilities. But there are some offsetting financial benefits, too. While Portland’s hydropower project cost about $1.7 million, it is expected to produce $2 million in clean energy over its 20 year contract.