The search for alternative energy sources that do not generate emissions has led to a promising and easily implemented solution that is literally underground: drinking water pipes. The excess pressure in these pipes can be used by small hydroelectric turbines to generate significant amounts of energy that are currently being wasted.
The innovative system that generates electricity from the power of water and that takes advantage of these pressure losses is known as “through conduit.” That is why given that there are billions of kilometers of pipelines around the world, their energy potential could supply electricity to millions of homes across the planet .
A great source of hydroelectric energy
A report published in 2022 by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) estimates that if existing water infrastructure in all 50 states, primarily water supply pipelines, were efficiently harnessed, and irrigation canals, the energy generation potential would reach 1.41 gigawatts. This amount is equivalent to the energy produced by approximately 450 onshore wind turbines and would be enough to supply electricity to more than one million homes.
“It can be considered that pipeline hydropower is within reach and that what has been implemented is nothing more than a drop in the bucket“said Shih-Chieh Kao, director of ORNL’s hydropower program, at the time. “Despite all its advantages, the biggest obstacle is the general lack of knowledge of the potential of ducted hydraulic energy.“.
The report states that the implementation of this new hydroelectric power generation network would be quite simple. The necessary infrastructure is already in place and its environmental impact is minimal. As of the date of this report, more than 350 pipeline hydroelectric generation projects had been approved or built, which generated an electrical power of around 530 megawatts.
The system that generates electricity using water from pipes
Several companies, including InPipe Energy , based in Oregon, United States, are implementing these systems in the water supply network. InPipe Energy’s approach involves installing a mini turbine next to an existing pressure valve, diverting the flow of water from the pipes through a bypass. Within said diversion, the water drives a hydroelectric turbine, and then is returned to the main pipe without affecting the water flow.
” Around the world, there are billions of kilometers of pressurized pipes ,” says Gregg Semler, founder and CEO of InPipe Energy, a company that has already implemented three such systems. These systems include one that provides lighting for a baseball stadium outside Portland and another that began generating power in November for residents of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District in California, with the expectation of reaching an output of 130,000 kilowatt-hours. year.
InPipe is also collaborating with the New York City mayor’s office to explore how to generate electricity from the nearly 4 billion liters of water that arrives daily.
Other hydro companies with similar systems include NLine Energy and Canyon Hydro, which have already installed 100 miniturbines across the United States, and Rentricity, a New York company that has deployed more than 30 systems across the country. Frank Zammataro, founder of Rentricity, believes these systems could be adopted more widely and sees the sector as being at a “tipping point” due to the global need to reduce emissions.
In addition to generating energy, these systems can also operate as storage systems. Semler anticipates that in the future, these networks will operate in a coordinated manner as a form of pumped storage to support times when renewable energy sources , such as wind and solar, are not generating enough.
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Source and photo: elconfidencial.com