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Portland’s New Pipes Harvest Power From Drinking Water
If you live in Portland, your lights may now be partly powered by your drinking water. An ingenious new system captures energy as water flows through the city’s pipes, creating hydropower without the negative environmental effects of something like a dam.
Small turbines in the pipes spin in the flowing water, and send that energy into a generator.
“It’s pretty rare to find a new source of energy where there’s no environmental impact,” says Gregg Semler, CEO of Lucid Energy, the Portland-based startup that designed the new system. “But this is inside a pipe, so no fish or endangered species are impacted. That’s what’s exciting.”
For water utilities, which use massive amounts of electricity, the system can make it cheaper to provide clean drinking water. Utilities can either use the power themselves or sell it to a city as a new source of revenue.
“We have a project in Riverside, California, where they’re using it to power streetlights at night,” Semler says. “During the day, when electricity prices are high, they can use it to offset some of their operating costs.”
In Portland, one of the city’s main pipelines now uses Lucid’s pipes to make power that’s sent into the grid. Though the system can’t generate enough energy for an entire city, the pipes can power individual buildings like a school or library, or help offset a city’s total energy bill. Unlike wind or solar power, the system can generate electricity at any time of day, regardless of weather, since the pipes always have water flowing through them.
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