Washington utility generates clean power in water distribution pipes

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To meet state and federal sustainability goals, energy stakeholders in the US continue to seek new and innovative ways to decarbonise energy generation. Harvesting excess pressure from water distribution pipelines to generate clean electricity is one way utilities are now able to produce clean energy without increasing their carbon footprint. To do this, a utility installs pressure recovery valves within a water distribution network together with advanced software, micro-hydro and control technology.

Instead of just monitoring and controlling water distribution pressure, the technology enables a utility to harvest excess pressure from water distribution to turn the turbines of a micro-hydro for electricity generation. Traditionally, pressure recovery valves use friction to burn off excess pressure, which is dissipated as heat. All of that energy is, essentially, wasted.

Washington state-based water company Skagit Public Utility District partnered with electricity company Puget Sound Energy and smart water technology firm InPipe Energy to install a pressure recovery project.

InPipe Energy has provided its In-PRV solution for pressure monitoring, harvesting and energy generation whilst Puget Sound Energy provided assistance through its Beyond Net-Zero Carbon initiative. Canadian-based utility TransAlta Energy provided a grant through its Coal Transition Board Grant programme.

Puget Sound Energy’s initiative aims to help the utility and companies in other sectors to reach net-zero targets whilst TransAlta helps local communities transition away from coal-fired energy generation.

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The East Division Street Energy Recovery Project at Skagit PUD’s East Division Street booster pump station in Mount Vernon will help the utility to reduce its carbon intensity by generating up to 94,000 KWh of clean electricity per annum using the In-PVR technology. The electricity produced will be used to offset the use of grid power at the pump station, saving Skagit PUD (and its ratepayers) money and replacing the equivalent of 3.5 million pounds of fossil-fuel-based carbon emissions annually. In addition, the project will help the utility to enhance its water pressure management to conserve water and extend the life of the distribution pipeline.

George Sidhu, Skagit PUD General Manager, said: “Converting excess water pressure into clean, renewable energy is a win for the environment and our ratepayers.

“Environmental stewardship is one of Skagit PUD’s core values; and in our actions, we want to preserve our region’s natural resources. As a public utility, we’re always looking to innovate and create greater efficiencies in the operation of our water system, and the East Division Street micro-hydro project checks all the boxes.”

Gregg Semler, president and CEO of InPipe Energy, adds: “The world’s water infrastructure is energy and carbon-intensive.

“We see a large, global opportunity for water agencies to meet their mission while also battling the impact of climate change. The sustainability of our nation’s water systems is paramount, yet water agencies are being constantly challenged with rising energy costs and aging infrastructure.”