The city of Portland is looking at a new system that will generate hydropower without environmental impacts to fish and stream flows. Portland-based Lucid Energy Inc. designs turbines that generate electricity from water flowing through city pipes.
Lucid has proposed to install a unique set of hydroelectric turbines inside the city drinking water line at SE 147th and Powell.
The in-pipe turbines will be capable of producing 1,100 megawatt hours of electricity a year – enough to power up to 150 homes. The power will be sold to Portland General Electric, and it will count toward Climate Action Plan goals for the city to install at least 10 megawatts of on-site renewable energy.
Lucid Energy CEO Gregg Semler said the system can help pay for city infrastructure while generating clean energy. His company and the city of Portland will split the revenues from electricity sales, which are projected to start around $55,000 a year and rise to $119,000 over 19 years.
"It's hard to predict the flow of water in a river or stream," Semler said. "Our engineering department had this idea that if you took that turbine and put it inside a large water pipe, you’d be able to control the conditions, predict the energy output and there’d be no environmental impact."
The turbines work more like wind turbines than the turbines you see in dams, Semler said.
"Our turbine allows the water to go through it but at the same time because of the geometry of the blades, it’s able to turn and lift like an airplane wing and turn a generator on the top and produce electricity," Semler said. "So we’re able to produce electricity without changing the operation of the system."
In-pipe hydropower is still a pretty new concept. Portland has one other similar system that generates hydropower from water towers in Sabin HydroPark. Semler said the Lucid Energy system only exists in one other city so far: Riverside, Calif. But he sees potential to develop similar systems in cities all over the world.
"It will be a really strong demonstration of an urban energy project that cities all over the country," he said. "New York City, Boston, Pittsburg, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles Sacramento. I’m talking to all of these cities who are really interested in doing a project with us and seeing how they can take advantage of the technology."
The system requires a franchise agreement that still needs final approval from Portland City Council. The company would pay a $1,000 franchise fee for access to the city’s hydropower, as well as the costs of installing new pipes.
Semler expects the deal will go forward; his company has a temporary permit to begin work on the project, which is expected to be complete by June.