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People continually look for viable ways to generate more clean energy without making massive investments in new infrastructure. One company called InPipe has a hydro turbine generator that resides within existing water pipes. This mini hydropower system helps people pursue renewable energy in appealing ways. Here’s a closer look at what InPipe’s systems do and other compelling examples of miniaturized hydropower technologies.
InPipe Energy’s Latest Mini Hydropower System
The people working at InPipe Energy envision a future where clean energy is just as abundantly present as clean water. Although people in some parts of the world don’t have consistently clean and available drinking water, those who do often take it for granted. InPipe Energy’s stance is that water can do more than provide hydration. It can also power our cities.
The company’s technology uses a bypass to directly connect to an existing pipeline. An integrated energy recovery system mimics the functionality of a control valve, adjusting the pressure and achieving flow control. An internal micro hydro turbine powers a generator that connects to an electric panel, providing renewable energy to the grid.
InPipe Energy’s newest offering is the HydroXS. This is a proprietary design that produces up to 50% more energy compared to earlier models. The HydroXS is also specially designed for customers in the municipal, industrial and agricultural sectors.
The system also includes an energy-recovery and pressure-management dashboard that gives people real-time hydraulic data and the amount of renewable energy generated. That ongoing data stream helps people feel more confident in their investments, especially since they can see hard evidence of the progress.
Using a Hydro Turbine Generator Brings Multiple Benefits
The city of Hillsboro, Oregon, completed a hydroelectric project with InPipe Energy in 2020. People involved expect it to generate at least 185,000 to 200,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. That energy will provide power for lights, electric vehicle charging stations and concession stands at a recreation complex with two stadiums.
InPipe’s pressure management system means this mini hydropower system will prolong the pipeline’s life span while saving water. Additionally, estimates suggest the hydro turbine generator and its associated components will bring a reduction of more than 162,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year. That’s the equivalent of the emissions associated with more than 240,000 miles driven in a car.
People also say this approach fits Hillsboro’s goals to progressively invest in clean energy with options that others could deploy elsewhere across the state. Water-based utilities face the ongoing challenges of ageing infrastructure and the need to cut costs. InPipe’s solution helps with both of those things, particularly since users install it into existing infrastructure.
Other Progress In Micro Hydropower Technology
The hydro turbine generator technology used by InPipe Energy is only one example of renewable energy options in this category. San Francisco technology firm MyHydro will work on improving micro hydro options in the Democratic Republic of Congo. That country has more than half of Africa’s total water resources, making it a good candidate. This project will ultimately involve 33 micro hydropower plants.
There’s also Emrgy, an Atlanta, Georgia-based startup that recently made major headway with its plans to scale up mini hydropower system usage in the United States. This company is like InPipe Energy in that it relies on existing infrastructure to work. The business has raised $18.4 million so far to develop its technology.
The setup requires placing a hydro turbine generator in an irrigation canal. Each one used by Emrgy looks like a propeller with blades spinning parallel to the ground. The turbines slow the water moving through the canals, but there’s no need for a dam.
Each installation is relatively small — generating from 2-10 megawatts. However, that’s still enough to power a college campus or neighbourhood.
The Necessity of Pursuing Small Hydropower Systems
InPipe Energy’s technology stands out from many other small hydropower options on the market due to its hydro turbine generator model. However, there are additional feasible ways to create energy with mini hydropower systems. When people learn more about those options, they’ll be more open to potentially pursuing them.
That’s important since an Oak Ridge National Laboratory report found possibilities for developing hydropower conduits in every U.S. state. If that happened, it would add 1.41 gigawatts of new energy-generating capacity. A mini hydropower system from InPipe Energy could contribute to the necessary development, particularly since researchers considered options that utilize existing pipelines.
The team also determined that hydropower’s potential is highest in certain places, including the Western United States. New York, Texas and the Midwest were other areas identified as having abundant potential. Although this research spanned beyond small hydropower systems, it’s important that individuals know that smaller, less invasive setups can provide impressive results.
Some people don’t realize that functional hydropower systems don’t necessarily require large amounts of water. A flowing stream only 13 inches deep can support a submersible hydro turbine generator system.
However, people must carefully plan all elements of these systems, including how to safeguard them from the elements. Moisture and air can corrode metal and steel pipes. That’s why it’s often necessary to use protective coatings that protect against corrosion and make the pipes last longer.
Experts believe fossil fuel growth is slowing while renewable energy investment gains momentum. That’s a good sign, but these trends could happen even faster if more people become interested in micro hydropower systems.
A Scottish micro hydropower project could help. The Hydro Ness hydroelectric scheme is open to visitors, and it has high-quality educational displays to teach people about topics ranging from ecology to renewable energy.
Micro Hydropower Solutions Support a Greener Future
People must keep exploring worthwhile renewable energy options, and especially those that have already proved their merit in the real world. The examples here give hopeful examples of the possibilities, showing that using hydropower for energy doesn’t necessarily mean making significant infrastructural changes.