Tapping the Pressure in Water Pipes for Power
August 24, 2017
Oregon BEST funding supports early testing of prototype that could save farmers and cities money
PORTLAND, Ore. – A new startup is receiving funding from Oregon BEST to fast-track commercialization of a system that generates electricity from water flowing through pipes beneath cities, agricultural fields, and factories.
In order to reduce pressure to usable levels at residential faucets and other points of use, water agencies install flow-control valves inside pipes at various locations throughout a water infrastructure system. But the energy generated by constricting the flow is not captured.
New technology developed by InPipe Energy captures this lost energy in existing pipeline infrastructure, precisely reducing water pressure and also generating electricity.
"Using a combination of software and hardware components, we replicate the functionality of flow-control valves and produce renewable energy," said Gregg Semler, President and CEO of InPipe Energy (pictured, right, testing prototype system at Oregon State University). "We streamline a critical function for water agencies and provide low cost electricity."
Water operations, including pumping and purification, in the nation's water infrastructure, consumes approximately six percent of the total energy used in the U.S. In California, where big agriculture distributes vast amounts of water for irrigation and food processing, the energy used for water operations approaches 20 percent of the total.
The two-phase, $250,000 investment from Oregon BEST has funded a full scale prototype and third party validation (pictured, above) between InPipe Energy and Oregon State University researchers. OSU mechanical engineering professor John Parmigiani is the principal investigator.
The third party validation was conducted at OSU’s Hinsdale Wave Research Lab in Corvallis, and the testing demonstrated precise replication of the existing flow-control valve functionality to control downstream pressure; efficient conversion of water flow to electricity; and scalability to a broad range of flows and pressures.
"This test proves that InPipe Energy's hydropower system is safe, reliable, efficient and can be a valuable tool to help water agencies reduce their operating costs and carbon footprint," said Semler (pictured, right). "Oregon BEST's investment provided us the capital we needed to build and test our prototype and helped us achieve this critical commercialization milestone. With these results completed, the next step for us is piloting our system in real pipelines, and Oregon BEST is committed to supporting us then too!"
The company is starting discussions with water agencies and some well known industrial companies interested in working with InPipe on the next phase of commercialization, according to Semler, who will be speaking at the cleantech innovation conference, BEST FEST, on September 14 in Portland, Ore.
The technology (pictured, right) is scalable for pipes 12 to 42 inches in diameter, and Semler said a city the size of Corvallis (pop. 58,000) might have between 10 and 15 sites where the InPipe system could be installed, generating enough electricity to power 200 homes around the clock with free flowing energy.
"Given the vital importance of both water and clean-energy generation, especially in light of climate change, we're very pleased to be supporting development of this exciting high-impact technology by leveraging the unique capabilities at OSU," said David Kenney, President and Executive Director of Oregon BEST. "This is an excellent example of how clean technologies can positively impact water agencies and electric utilities in both urban and rural settings."
About Oregon BEST http://oregonbest.org
An economic development catalyst, Oregon BEST funds and supports innovative cleantech startups across Oregon, connecting these companies with state and federal resources, while preparing them for follow-on investment through a series of focused programs. Oregon BEST provides leadership and leverages its expertise, resources and relationships to achieve impact beyond its scale. Founded in 2007, Oregon BEST is an independent nonprofit supported by the Oregon Innovation Council and Business Oregon. Learn more at OregonBEST.org
About InPipe Energy https://inpipeenergy.com
InPipe Energy is a renewable energy and smart water technology company focused on generating low cost, clean electricity from the flow of water in gravity fed water pipelines and effluent streams to improve water and energy security in cities and communities around the world. InPipe Energy's technology saves money, helps improve the economics of water management, and reduces carbon emissions.