Portland residents can now generate green electricity simply by turning on their water taps and flushing their toilets. Fast Company reports that the Oregon city is using a state-of-the art system to capture energy from water flowing through the city’s pipelines. Small turbines installed inside the pipelines are turned by the flowing water, sending energy into a generator and off into the power grid.
“It’s pretty rare to find a new source of energy where there’s no environmental impact,” Gregg Semler told Fast Company. Semler is the chief executive officer of Lucid Energy, the Portland start-up behind the new system. “But this is inside a pipe, so no fish or endangered species are impacted. That’s what’s exciting.”
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According to Semler, water utilities tend to use large amounts of electricity, so the new power generation system can help cut the cost of providing drinking water to cities. Utilities can decide whether to use the power for their own purposes, or sell the energy as a source of revenue.
“We have a project in Riverside, California, where they’re using it to power streetlights at night,” Semler notes. “During the day, when electricity prices are high, they can use it to offset some of their operating costs.”
As for Portland, one of its main water pipelines uses Lucid’s system to generate power, and though the system can’t make enough power for the whole city, the pipes can produce enough to run an individual building like a school or a library.
Unlike other forms of green power, like solar or wind, the Lucid system can produce power at any time of the day because the water is always flowing. The only hitch is that the turbines can only produce power where water is naturally flowing downward with gravity. Lucid’s pipes contain sensors that can monitor the quality of the water flowing through the pipes, making them more than just a power generating technology, which can be valuable just about anywhere.
Via Fast Company
The article makes no sense, fresh water pipes are under constant pressure but little residential flow. Fresh water pipes are not gravity fed. The best flow is when the water departments clean/scour the pipes by opening up fire hydrants. I can´t see these types of flow-driven generators being much value.
"Digging deep in Singapore for space solutions" published on Jun 17, 2015 in Straits Times. Quote: The underground drainage and reservoir system is likely to include tunnels to channel storm water, caverns for water storage, and a pumped storage hydropower system which harnesses the power of flowing water to generate electricity. - Unquote. DPM Tharman said recently that tiny red dot does not have natural resources, not even a waterfall to generate hydro electricity. We do have a man-made waterfall at the Jurong Bird Park. We have the technology to dig and build 150m deep lift wells to reach the caverns underground for gas storage. Soon it will be underground reservoirs. Sometime back, I suggested that we should build more 150m shafts and install magnetic-frictionless electric turbines at every 30m intervals for the fast flowing water to cascade by gravity and have the force to spin the five turbines. There should be surplus electricity from the five turbines in each 150m shaft to pump the water at the bottom of the shaft up to the surface and have perpetual fast flowing water to generate electricity non stop in all the shafts. We need need this new sources of electric generation. I hope the Govt will conduct feasibility studies on this. Sharing what I wrote on this at this link: https://tankoktim.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/150m-deep-shaft-possible-to-generate-electricity/ And more at this link: https://tankoktim.wordpress.com/category/energy/
This is intriguing, but I can't see this having a whole lot of impact. Each turbine probably generates a couple of kW max, and the output would vary widely as it's a function of water use. If they installed hundreds of turbines around town it might add up to a few megawatts, but then you have to factor in the costs of maintenance of the turbines and generators as well as the electrical infrastructure (cabling, inverters, etc.) that would have to be installed and maintained to connect them to the grid. That said, I've wondered at times how much energy goes to waste in a freshwater or wastewater distribution system and how this energy could be reclaimed. Sewage wound never be suitable for spinning a turbine due to the obvious problem of solids in the waste stream, which would cause a nightmare with anything placed in the line. Recovering methane gas at the treatment plant is still the best way to get energy from that source.
Just to be clear, these turbines are on the drinking water distribution system, not on the wastewater sewer part of the system. So saying that power is generated by flushing the toilet is somewhat misleading. It is the clean potable water flowing into a home or business that turns the turbines. These are not actually generating new energy they are recapturing energy used in a distribution system. Recapture is a good thing too.
Only if this were powered by a natural water drop providing the pressure would it ever return effectively on investment either in money or in energy. The concept seems very attractive unless you understand the scientific principles and the theory of thermodynamics ... behind why it is a 'consumer of much more energy' than it could ever produce as an 'out-put'.
This would be more of a re-capture system since the water is being pumped through the pipes and energy is used to pump the water. Not that there is anything wrong with it, this is the way of the future. Recapturing Energy in any way we can. Energy Recycling is the way of the future. Another commenter has said this sounds like perpetual motion, this is not the case as you are not generating MORE energy than you are putting in you are simply re-capturing a percentage of the energy already put into the system.
Allow me to temper my last comment a bit. The Portland installation appears to be on the supply side, tapping into excess head pressure coming from the reservoir. In that case, sure. But even in that IDEAL situation, it's expected to Net $2M income over the 20 year agreement on a $1.5M investment.
This sounds a bit too close to a perpetual motion machine. First we use Energy to pump the water up and then recover large amounts of energy on the return, but the math just doesn't add up. Think about it, most sewer systems are not under pressure, and they are oversized for capacity. How much standing water is usually inside a sewer, and how fast is it flowing? 1/3 the height? Add to that the fact that this is a vertical axis turbine, which means it operates by a differential in drag, one side creating more resistance than the other, but that still means the returning blades have to move into the flow of water. A more efficient design would be to transform this energy closer to the treatment site, such as a retaining pond with an overshot wheel as it moves from tank to tank. What happens when it clogs? Do you leave several blocks without power? $1.5 million for something that only powers 150 homes? You could power far more homes per invested dollar with solar, wind, or tidal energy.