1. Social
April 1, 2015

Portland is powering homes using underground water turbines

By City Monitor Staff

If you’re one of those people who thinks green energy is great and all, but wind turbines are just too noisy and ugly, then we can’t say we totally agree with you. But you’ll approve of a new technology which uses turbines buried within water pipes to generate clean power. They don’t make noise, they don’t ruin horizons, and, most importantly, they seem to actually work. 

In Portland, Oregon, the city installed four of these pipe turbines along a single water pipe earlier this year, and this week announced that they’re successfully generating enough power for about 150 homes. 

Portland is the first US city to sign a long-term contract with Lucid Energy, the pipes’ creators. The project cost the city $1.5m to install, but the profits from the energy created and sold to local energy suppliers will be shared between Lucid Energy and the local water bureau. 

There’s a limit to how environmentally friendly these pipes are, however. As Gregg Semler, Lucid Energy’s CEO, explains in the video below, “all we’re doing is recapturing energy that exists inside these pipelines” – the water has already been pushed down the pipes using traditional sources of energy, which the turbines only recuperate some of.

The technology essentially represents a more efficient way to use energy in the water system, rather than a way to bring energy from natural sources into the grid. 

On the other hand, the water turbines’ lack of contact with nature is also an advantage: energy production isn’t reliant on the weather, and there’s no thread to nearby birds or animals. As Semler also notes, the technology could be installed anywhere (Lucid Energy simply replaces a water pipe with one of their turbine-equipped pipes).

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And, of course, they’d be a far easier sell for NIMBYs than wind turbines. 

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