Geeking Science: Hydro-Power Pipes

Acquired from the internet hivemind – Lucid Energy

Humans have been using water to create energy for a long time. Waterwheels, mills, and hydro-electric dams as just a few of the tools used to feed the hunger for energy through the constant flow of water of the Earth’s water system.

An interesting variation has come up for hydro-electric power. Water flowing through the BIG pipes of a city, going downhill, operates the turbine within the pipe producing electricity to help with other parts of the water system and feed into the city grid.

Limitations. First, the flow over the turbine needs to be just water, so this needs to be in the clean water system, not the sewer system or the storm water system. Otherwise the debris will get caught in the turbine. Therefore the water is flowing from the water cleaning plants TO the houses and plants.

Second, the flow needs to be going downhill, not pumped uphill. Otherwise the energy produced by the turbine is used for the pump – an overall loss.

Third, the amount of turbines will never be enough to power a city, not like a full dam. This is a micro-solution, a support system, not a replacement.

Pluses. No need to worry about drought, sun, or wind. This is city water and needs a constant flow to feed the city’s needs. 

Second plus, tapping into something that is already there. Nothing needs to be dammed. No environmental impact. No harm of other species – keeping fishes from going upstream or flooding habitats. The pipes are already built.

Third plus, micro-solutions provide a multi-tier reaction plan, allowing for flexibility throughout the year and in different weathers.

Portland is just one of the many cities around the world testing out the viability of this technology.

Find out more here:

Lempriere, Molly. “Can a city’s water infrastructure produce hydropower?” 2018 October 15. (last viewed 3/29/2022; note as of 4/26/2024 the link no longer works)

Schwartz, Rafi. “Portland Now Generates Electricity From Turbines Installed in City Water Pipes.” 2019 March 21. (last viewed 3/29/2022)