US city now generating renewable energy from an underground water pipeline

The City of Hillsboro, Oregon, Energy Trust of Oregon, Portland General Electric (PGE) and InPipe Energy announced the completion of the Hillsboro In-Pipe Hydroelectric Project – the first renewable energy project featuring the In-PRV, a new smart water and micro-hydro system that generates electricity by harvesting excess pressure from a city water pipeline.

The In-PRV bypasses an existing pressure control valve, only instead of dissipating the pressure, it converts it into electricity that is fed to the grid.

This new technology will generate from 185,000 up to 200,000 kWh or more of electricity per year that will help power the lighting, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and concessions at Hillsboro’s Gordon Faber Recreation Complex, which includes Ron Tonkin and Hillsboro Stadiums.

It will provide pressure management that helps save water and extend the life of the pipeline while reducing more than 162,000 pounds of carbon annually — that equates to over 240,000 driven miles off the road – every year.

How it Works

Throughout the world, water agencies use control valves to manage pressure in their water pipelines – this helps protect the pipeline from leaks and delivers water to customers at a safe pressure. These control valves normally burn off excess pressure as heat. InPipe Energy’s In-PRV pressure recovery system performs like a highly precise control valve, but takes the process one step further by turning the excess pressure — that would be otherwise wasted — into a new source of carbon-free electricity.

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This new form of renewable energy – in-pipe hydropower – has previously been used in large-scale projects, however the In-PRV is the first system that combines software, micro-hydro and control technology as a turnkey product that can be installed quickly, easily and cost-effectively throughout water systems with smaller-diameter pipelines and wherever pressure must be reduced.

Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway, said: “As a growing city, we’re excited to pioneer this very practical new form of renewable energy that will help us continue to meet our climate action goals and build resilience.”

Maria Pope, president and CEO of Portland General Electric, adds: “The City of Hillsboro’s innovative new project is a great example of how we can support on-demand, cost-effective renewable energy generation right here in our community.

“From the In-Pipe Hydroelectric Project to sourcing their power from 100% clean wind, Hillsboro is a leader in sustainability. Thanks to PGE’s Green Future customers’ support for local renewable energy projects, we were able to help fund this work, along with Energy Trust and InPipe Energy. Only by working together will we build a clean energy future.”

Dave Moldal, senior program manager at Energy Trust of Oregon, said: “The City of Hillsboro is tapping into a new, local source of renewable energy that communities across the region can deploy, and we support these projects through funding to offset costs.”

Gregg Semler, President and CEO of InPipe Energy. “Water agencies across the country are being challenged with rising costs and aging infrastructure. Our In-PRV is a product that easily integrates into existing water pipelines and helps water agencies with both of these issues by enabling them to precisely manage pressure, save water, extend the life of their infrastructure and offset costs by producing renewable energy.”