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Working Water

Most highly populated cities have aging infrastructure systems for water distribution. It is no secret that they will require replacement soon. If we incorporate and leverage sophisticated hydropower technology into the design, we not only renew reliable water supplies to the masses, but also repurposes the flow of water as a generated energy. By appropriately pressuring and re-circulating the water through properly positioned turbines, substantial amounts of energy can be created, stored and/or distributed. By leveraging the same turbine technology in river-based communities , the generated energy can off-set existing power needs and encourage the incorporation and utilization of electric-powered public and private transportation.

Photo of Jason Pacely
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The first phase of this initiative of this approach would be designing submersible, non-obtrusive turbine-type generators. The design and creation must be conducive to working riverways that are used as shipping lanes. Their installation, operation and maintenance cannot obstruct shipping operations. Connection to the power grid for energy to be safely collecte, stored, and accessed will be critical.

The second phase would be working with those that are engaged in local and national infrastructure renewal and expansion. Injecting water pressurization, recirculation, and mini hydrogenerator technology will be a timely addition to these talks, supplemented by smaller scale turbine-type generators for consideration.

The success of this approach is guaranteed as people are more concious of not just the consumption, but fluctating cost of fossil fuels. While is solar and wind are significant contributions to the resolving the energy dilemma, they are climate and environment dependent. Water is a constant, regardless of location and population. By leveraging the kinetic energy created by its pressurized, recirculated movement, we have an amazing opportunity to power many for ages to come.  

What community does this idea benefit and who are the main players?

Initially, this idea will benefit larger, water based metropolitan areas (and their supported suburbs). As the idea based improvements to infrastructure are implemented, the benefits will be realized by all. The main players include the general population (they must understand and leverage their political representation), energy regulators and providers, engineering and design firms, and local/national/global governments.

How does your idea specifically help your community rapidly transition to renewables?

This idea creates greater, affordable access to electricity. This not only increases the demand for the power source, but also a demand for the skill-set needed to facilitate its usage and knowledge of its powered products (vehicles, appliances, etc.). Academic curriculum will adjust to meet the demands of this expanded market of consumers and employers.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

The first experiment would be the design and placement of a sample turbine based generator to be placed in both the Detroit River and Savannah River would be idea. Each would be fitted with dashboard to determine how much power was generated and potentially stored. The second experiment would be the design and placement of a pressurized recirculation system in a neighborhood subdivision or apartment complex. The overall system would record metrics of energy generated and potentially captured.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

I would love to hear from engineers, energy regulation gurus, current and past power plant workers, and anyone else with insights on this perspective. I also would love to hear from those that may not agree with this approach, as their perspective is just as valuable.

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post:

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This idea emerged from:

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Photo of Joanna Spoth

Hi Jason, interesting post! Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story with higher impact. You should be able to use the Update Entry button on the right of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. We know occasionally people have issues uploading images so let us know by hitting the Feedback button at the bottom of most pages of our site if you face any problems. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

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