FutureStructure

New Benefits Emerge from Traditional Public Works Infrastructure

In January, the Portland Water Bureau in Oregon flipped the on switch for the first project in the U.S. to produce energy from in-pipe hydropower in a municipal water pipeline.

by / July 31, 2015
Power on Tap: Hydroelectric generators are transforming Portland's water pipes into sources of renewable energy

As regions of the country seek renewable sources to replace energy from coal-fired power plants, city public works agencies are turning to new approaches for conservation and energy production.

In January, the Portland Water Bureau (PWB) in Oregon flipped the on switch for the first project in the U.S. to produce energy from in-pipe hydropower in a municipal water pipeline.

PWB partnered with a Portland-based startup called Lucid Energy Inc., a provider of renewable energy systems for in-pipe hydropower. The company’s system, which it says was installed at no cost to PWB or the city of Portland, uses the gravity-fed flow of water inside a PWB pipeline to spin four 42-inch turbines that are now producing electricity for Portland General Electric customers under a 20-year power purchase agreement with the utility.

“Water agencies are looking for ways to be more energy efficient, energy utilities are seeking more renewable sources of energy and investors are seeking opportunities in smart water and energy infrastructure,” said Gregg Semler, president and CEO of Lucid Energy, in a statement. “The industry is looking to Portland as an example of how all of these entities can partner to take advantage of in-pipe hydropower to generate investment returns and reduce the cost of delivering clean, safe drinking water.”

A PBS NewsHour report on the project noted that Lucid is negotiating agreements with San Antonio and New York City, and hopes to have more pipes and turbines in place in Portland over the next few years.

This story was originally published as a subsection of an article by Government Technology.

David Raths contributing writer