We recently reported that hydropower is coming back from the dead in the U.S.
Due to a lack of cost-efficient technology, it became a forgotten renewable energy source for many years.
Now, with funding from the Department of Energy, new technological advancements are making inroads in the hydropower space.
LucidEnergy is a startup that began in Portland, Oregon in 2007. Its original goal was finding new ways to capture energy from streams and rivers. Unfortunately, like all renewable energy sources, natural occurrences could impede the production of electricity.
Lucid has found a way around that problem. The LucidPipe system uses man-made and constantly pumping residential waterways to produce energy. These pipeline units have generators on the outside of the pipe, and 42-inch turbines that turn with the running water.
This technology can be attached to existing pipes, or built into new infrastructure. Lucid claims that up to four LucidPipe units can be installed in a “standard 40-foot” water pipe.
According to the company, one mile of pipeline could produce more than 3 megawatts of electricity.
The company’s first attempt at this was done in Riverside, California. There would have been no better place to test this technology; California has been in a drought for several years now. The state’s aquifers have been badly depleted, and hydropower production has dropped so much that $1.4 billion of natural gas energy was necessary to make up for the loss.
However, Lucid’s pipe structures are not as harshly affected by natural causes like drought. Where rivers run out of water, communities have to work harder to keep homes supplied with drinking water no matter what.
“I don’t think you’d see the same level of variability with this type of hydro power,” says senior energy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists Laura Wisland. “There’s a more constant supply of power.”
This technology is coming at a time when two very important changes are being made in the U.S.
First, the recently announced Clean Power Plan has set new emissions regulations for each state, encouraging cleaner energy production in any way the states see fit.
And second, the U.S. water pipeline system is in dire need of repairs and replacements. The country’s structure received a D+ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2013.
The only problem is capital: most cities don’t have enough money to repair or replace many waterways. But LucidEnergy’s pipe units could be a more viable option than simple pipes. Over time, the energy production would repay the cost of the unit itself.
And of course, there are the clean energy subsidies the government is offering for states who begin switching before the official Clean Power Plan deadline hits, which could be an incentive for municipalities to adopt LucidEnergy’s technology.
To continue reading…
Until next time,
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