Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Water Company Uses Flow to Make Electricity

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Water Company Uses Flow to Make Electricity

Article excerpt

Taking its cue from the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, the Pennsylvania American Water Co. has turned a problem into a benefit by going with the flow, literally.

The high pressure of raw water flowing from two reservoirs into the Oneida Valley Water Treatment Plant in Summit Township, Butler County, initially prompted PAWC to install a butterfly valve to crimp the flow into the plant. High water pressure can burst a pipe.

But company officials soon realized that crimping the pipe with a valve was one big waste of renewable energy. A better strategy, they concluded, was to use excess water pressure to turn a turbine generator and produce electricity for the treatment plant.

The plan produces energy and reduces water pressure.

To accomplish that goal, PAWC has partnered with Rentricity Inc., a New York-based company with offices in Pittsburgh, to generate renewable energy with the company's Flow-To-Wire system. The in- pipe generator, in operation since early February, includes a generator wheel inside a casing that water flow spins at 1,200 rpm, enough, officials think, to produce 20 to 25 kilowatts of power for the plant.

The project required a chamber to be built 15 feet below grade with some rerouting of inflow pipes from its Thorn Run and Oneida reservoirs so they enter the plant through a common pipe. The turbine reduces the pressure while producing about 5 percent of the plant's average requirement of 485 kilowatts to treat then distribute water to 18,000 customers in Butler and surrounding municipalities.

PAWC has 2.2 million customers, including 290,000 in Western Pennsylvania.

Daniel J. Hufton, the water plant's senior director of production, said the water-delivery process -- pumping water from reservoirs to the treatment plant, then to storage facilities and finally to customers -- accounts for 97 percent of the Oneida plant's electricity consumption and 90 percent of its greenhouse- gas emissions. …

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