Portland’s In-Pipe Hydro On Its Way

More than a year after they broached the idea of working together, Portland, Ore., and Lucid Energy have officially hooked up to install a system to put a turbine in a gravity-fed water pipeline in the city in order to produce electricity.

The system is expected to be installed by June 2013 and will produce “enough electricity to power an estimated 150 homes,” the parties said.

image via Lucid Energy

image via Lucid Energy

The Lucid system uses a vertical-axis spherical turbine, fit inside the pipe. As the company explains on its website:

Water flows through the hydrodynamic turbine, generating power as the turbine spins. The hydrodynamic turbine has been carefully designed and lab-tested to maximize efficiency and power generation without interrupting the flow of water. As velocities increase, power production increases. Due to the lift-based design of LucidPipe, the system generates power across a very wide range of flow conditions, volumes and velocities.

When Portland and the company – which is based in Portland – signed their memorandum of understanding in October 2011, Lucid had yet to actually have one of its system’s working anywhere – but that changed in the past year when a fourth-generation prototype began producing power in a pipe in Riverside, Calif., according to a report from the local Press-Enterprise newspaper.

This short video from the city of Riverside, posted in May, describes how the in-pipe system has been developed for the city:

While the folks in Riverside said their demo version was putting out 4 to 7 kilowatts – enough to power a few homes – the planned Portland system will apparently take advantage of much greater flow; Sustainable Business Oregon reported the system, to be installed as part of a larger upgrade by the Portland Water Bureau, would produce around 1,000 megawatt-hours per year. On its website Lucid says “each LucidPipe turbine produces up to 100 kilowatts” of power, which operating 24×7 would yield 876 MWh of power in a year.

“Water and energy are closely linked; it takes a lot of electricity to deliver safe, clean drinking water,” David Shaff, Portland Water Bureau administrator, said in a statement. “The LucidPipe system provides a new way for us, as a water bureau, to generate electricity from our biggest asset and reduce the cost of delivery for our customers.”

Skyrocketing bills have been a big issue in Portland; in January 2011, the Oregonian newspaper reported that “Portland’s combined average monthly sewer and water bill has jumped 83 percent in the past decade” and was “projected to rise an additional 49 percent in the next five years.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.


  • Reply January 3, 2013



  • Reply January 7, 2013

    Peter Mccarthy

    Ho My God i love this invention it will work sweet

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