Water-pipe micro turbines could be energy solution

Water mains could be a new source of new energy, if a new technology developed in the UK is successful.

The new technology from Mouchel Parkman would tap into energy from water mains with what they say has the potential to provide enough power to illuminate the Eiffel Tower 45 times or - on a more practical level - meet the energy needs of about 7,000 UK homes.

The technology works by installing intelligent 'micro-turbines' in existing water and wastewater mains, where there is a measurable difference in pressure and available flow.

Each turbine is capable of generating several kilowatts of energy and early estimates suggest that it can initially be installed in 100 sites in the UK, providing enough energy to boil the water for 24,000 cups of tea every hour.

The technology recently held a successful trial in the US and could soon be fully operational in the UK.

The venture, which has the backing of UK Trade & Investment, has prompted the launch of Rentricity Limited - a new company dedicated to delivering the clean energy potential of the technology to the UK water industry.

"The concept of water mains turbines has been around for a while although the technology which supports it is new and proven," said George Taylor, managing director of Rentricity Ltd.

"It's an extremely exciting development given escalating energy prices and the increasing demands on business and society to devise alternative energy sources. This technology will allow water companies to retrieve and capitalise on a resource that would otherwise be lost to them."

Unlike wind power, the turbines are also contained within chambers that are generally below ground. "In the vast majority of cases there will be little or no aesthetic impact on the surrounding landscape," said Taylor.

Taylor also added that other organisations - including British Waterways, the Carbon Trust, and New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) have also expressed interest in the new technology.

"We believe that the technology can also be transferred to similar sized gas mains," he added.

Dana Gornitzki


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