Turning Pressure Into Renewable Energy

Posted Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Converting excess water pressure into clean, renewable energy will soon become a reality with Skagit PUD’s planned installation of a micro-hydroelectric system at our East Division Street reservoir in Mount Vernon. 

Over the last 18 months, Skagit PUD has partnered with InPipe Energy to identify areas within our water distribution system suitable for a micro-hydroelectric system to generate electricity by harvesting excess pressure from the water pipeline.

Utilities typically use a lot of energy in the form of pumping to move water over long distances. (Skagit PUD has over 650 miles of pipelines.) Water is pumped up to a high point, stored in reservoirs, and then flows by gravity to low parts within the system. The water is at high pressure. Too high for typical domestic and commercial uses. The pressure is reduced via friction; in this case, the PUD will use a hydroelectric turbine to provide that friction and capture the electricity.

“The installation of micro-hydro units aligns with the Washington Clean Energy Transformation Act to eliminate fossil fuels from electricity generation by 2045 and the Skagit County Climate Change and Sustainability Initiative,” Engineering Manager Mark Handzlik said. “This includes the increased deployment of renewable energy in public facilities and encourages demonstration programs.”

The new micro-hydroelectric system is estimated to cost $400,000. Skagit PUD will contribute $100,000 to the project. Additionally, grants of $24,000 were received from Puget Sound Energy and $200,000 from TransAlta’s Centralia Coal Transition Grants. InPipe Energy is funding the balance of $76,000.

Handzlik says that he is excited about the micro-hydro project and what it means to the PUD. “It’s a neat little project that aligns with the District’s core value of environmental stewardship and goal to strengthen the use of technology to create efficiencies.”