Water managers tend to be risk-averse when it comes to new technology: Their priority is to deliver clean, safe drinking water, not to generate power. But a pilot project in Riverside, California, in 2012 demonstrated the safety and potential of the system Lucid designed. As a result, the company’s turbines are certified for use in pipes that carry municipal drinking water, as well as industrial, irrigation, and wastewater. Utilities also have tight budgets, which is why Lucid brought in an investment outfit, Harbourton Alternative Energy, to pay for the
$1 million installation cost in Portland. The city, the Portland Water Bureau, and investors will share revenue generated by the turbines for the next 20 years. Then the utility can own them outright. Since water pipes can last 50 years or more, additional revenue could be huge. “It could provide a new form of income for water facilities,” Semler says.