Innovation in a Sustainable Product: Lucid Energy
By Gretchen Holzgang, Contributing Writer
Gregg Semler is the CEO of Lucid Energy.
When Lucid Energy Inc. established its headquarters in Portland in the fall of 2011, the company only had one pilot program up and running. One year later, the renewable energy company has started spreading its green energy solution nationwide.
The company, originally formed in 2007 as Lucid Energy Technologies in Indiana, develops the LucidPipe Power System, an in-pipe hydropower system that harnesses energy from water flow with a vertical-axis turbine specifically designed for use in large water transmission pipelines, such as in municipal water systems and irrigation systems.
“There is a very large global market for Lucid Energy’s product,” said Lucid Energy CEO Gregg Semler. “However, today we are focused in North America where we are launching our product in leading cities and building distribution channels in markets where both water needs and energy costs are high, such as California, Texas and New York, and in metro areas like Portland where renewable energy is high priority.”
Lucid Energy sees plenty of opportunity for future growth in the U.S. An estimated $650 billion in water infrastructure upgrades will be needed to replace aging pipelines throughout the U.S. over the next 20 year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency
In August, Lucid Energy signed a deal with the San Antonio Water System in Texas to install a three turbine in-pipe hydropower system, a 60-kilowatt project which is expected to begin in early 2013.
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The company also has a memorandum of understanding with the city of Portland and a one-turbine system up and running in Riverside, Calif. Lucid Energy is also working with its partner, Northwest Pipe Company, to identify new or rehab pipe projects to install the LucidPipe system.
Lucid Energy is also partnering with renewable energy developers and service companies, such as CH2M Hill, Siemens and Johnson Controls, to include small hydroelectric energy projects into the products sold to cities and industrial companies.
Although the company is mainly focusing on the North American market for now, it is working to identify key international markets to deploy the LucidPipe system, including countries such as Brazil, China, Canada, Mexico, and Australia, among others.
The company is working with global energy and water companies global, such as Mekerot, Israel’s national water company.
Because Lucid Energy’s systems are implemented inside new or existing pipeline infrastructure, it creates a cleaner and even more efficient form of renewable energy than other hydropower technologies.
“Unlike conventional hydropower technologies — which extract nearly all pressure from the flow in order to maximize energy production — the LucidPipe turbine extracts only a portion of the pressure in the pipeline so as to minimize the impact to water delivery and even improve pipeline efficiency in some cases,” said Josh Thomas, engineering program manager for Lucid Energy.
Gravity-fed pipelines work as both an energy source and are a convenient and efficient way to transport water; however, gravity-fed pipelines must withstand a high level of pressure associated with transporting water that can drop hundreds of feet in elevation before delivery. EPA estimates that 20 to 30 percent of water in such pipelines in the U.S. is lost due to leakage and evaporation in pipes.
“The challenges associated with high operating pressures has given rise to an entire industry that designs gates and valves for the express purpose of reducing this pressure and controlling flow,” said Thomas. “The LucidPipe turbines may be placed upstream from these valves in order to extract pressure, which reduces wear on valves.”
A reduction in the wear on valves not only increases efficiency and extends the life of the pipeline and valves, it helps reduce the amount of water lost during transportation.
Lucid Energy’s systems are comparable in price to other renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar, but unlike traditional renewable energy sources, the LucidPipe utilizes a source that has a predictable and constant flow, allowing it to produce more energy without creating an environmental impact.
“Simply put, we help large users and distributors of water to recapture energy from a resource they already have at their disposal: large amounts of water flowing through pipes 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” said Semler. “So that’s really exciting to me.”
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