If you live in Portland, Oregon, your lights are now powered in part by the water flowing through your pipes.
The city recently installed new municipal water pipes equipped with four 42-inch turbines that create electricity from the water passing through them.
Historyically, hydropower has been created by damming rivers and installing turbines inside the dams, which can be damaging to fish and the river itself.
Tap-water hydropower creates virtually no effect on wildlife, as it is simply harnessing the energy of water that’s already flowing through the pipes.
“It’s pretty rare to find a new source of energy where there’s no environmental impact,” saysGregg Semler, CEO of Lucid Energy, the Portland-based startup that designed the new system.
“But this is inside a pipe, so no fish or endangered species are impacted. That’s what’s exciting.”
Another bonus about hydro-power is, unlike wind and solar, it’s always working as long as water is flowing.
The turbines can only be installed in places where municipal water pipes flow downhill, as using electricity to pump water through them would defeat the purpose.
The four turbines are expected to produce at least $2 million worth of free electricity over the next 20 years. More turbines would produce more.
A larger tap-water hydro-power system could have a major impact in places like California where 20% of total energy consumption goes toward treating and pumping water to farms, residents and businesses, Fast Company notes.
Lucid Energy already has a pilot program in place in Riverside, California, where they city’s water utility is using the turbines to offset operating costs during the day and power streetlights at night.