Hillsboro, Oregon begins generating renewable electricity from an underground water pipeline


By Jennifer Allen Newton

The City of Hillsboro, Oregon, Energy Trust of Oregon, Portland General Electric, and InPipe Energy recently 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 and dissipates the pressure by running the water through a turbine that generates 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 andHillsboro 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. “As a growing city, we’re excited to pioneer this practical new form of renewable energy that will help us continue to meet our climate action goals and build resilience,” says Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway.

“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,” says Maria Pope, president and CEO of Portland General Electric. “From the In-Pipe Hydroelectric Project to sourcing their power from 100-percent 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.”

“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,” says Dave Moldal, senior program manager at Energy Trust of Oregon. “The relationships that Hillsboro, PGE, Energy Trust, and InPipe Energy have developed provide a successful model for how we can come together to implement new, innovative sources of clean energy for Oregon.”

“Water and energy are the most critical resources on the planet,” says Gregg Semler, president and CEO of InPipe Energy, based in Portland, Oregon. “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.”

Throughout the world, water agencies use control valves to manage the pressure in their water pipelines that is needed to transport water long distances and uphill to storage tanks. 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.

This new form of energy – dubbed 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.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve our water operations and reduce costs for our ratepayers,” says Eric Hielema, engineering manager for the City of Hillsboro Water Department. “This technology provides us with a solution to help us precisely manage pressure while also producing renewable energy.” Moldal adds, “Distributed energy resources are a critical component in meeting the state’s carbon goals, and this is a great addition to the renewable energy options available to cities, reducing both carbon and energy costs.”

Portland General Electric is a fully integrated energy company based in Portland, Oregon with operations across the state. The company serves 901,000 customers with a service area population of 1.9 million Oregonians in 51 cities. PGE has 16 generation plants in five Oregon counties, and maintains and operates 14 public parks and recreation areas. Energy Trust of Oregon is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping utility customers benefit from saving energy and generating renewable power.