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California MUD Plans In-Conduit Hydropower Pilot Project

The East Bay Municipal Utility District in California has partnered with InPipe Energy to generate electricity from the flow of water in its water system.

EBMUD said it is the first installation of the InPipe technology in California and that the project supports its energy policy goal to become carbon neutral by 2030.

The in-conduit hydroelectric system works like traditional pressure regulating valves in EBMUD’s water distribution system but uses a turbine to reduce water pressure in the distribution pipeline while generating electricity, creating a reliable, clean source of power.

Installed in parallel with its Piedmont Regulator, EBMUD said InPipe’s in-conduit hydroelectric system will replicate the function of the existing regulator while generating approximately 130,000 kilowatt hours of emission-free energy per year for use onsite.

The system is expected to offset nearly six metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

EBMUD, California’s second-largest water and wastewater retail utility with 1.4 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, said it plans to evaluate the performance and economics of the pilot project to determine if this site or other locations can offer a cost-effective source of zero-emission energy.

Since 2000, EBMUD has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by roughly half by generating and using solar energy, biogas and hydroelectricity, as well as by purchasing lower-emission energy, installing energy-efficient equipment and machinery, and purchasing zero- or low-emission vehicles.

The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 exempted conduit hydropower facilities with an installed capacity not exceeding 5 megawatts from licensing requirements under the Federal Power Act.

In 2007, the San Diego Water County Authority completed a 4.5-MW in-conduit generator at its Ranchos Penasquitos Pressure Control Hydroelectric Facility. The water authority signed a long-term agreement to sell the facility’s power to San Diego Gas & Electric. At the time, the water authority said expects to be able to pay back the cost of installing the hydroelectric project in seven years.

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