The ancient Greeks harnessed the power of water to grind wheat. Over a millennium later, a start-up is evangelizing its system to generate electricity from hydrokinetic energy recovered from U.S. water utilities.
Rentricity, a Manhattan based company founded by former W-Technologies chief marketing officer Frank Zammataro and Asea Brown Boveri combustion engineer Al Spinell, has developed a system called Flow-to-Wire. Rentricity is also developing information services to help utilities manage and monitor its energy recovery systems.
Flow-to-Wire recovers energy by mimicking the pressure reduction valves (PRVs) that are used to relieve excess pressure in water supply systems. Excess energy is recovered rather than being dissipated as heat.
PRVs keep pipelines within pre-defined pressure ranges, and are frequently deployed at locations where water is traveling downhill and pressure rises.
Rentricity deployed a Flow-to-Wire system in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania early this month. The system captures energy from the pipes that run water between the Beaver Run Reservoir and a nearby water treatment plant; the recovered energy is re-purposed to help power the utility's pumps.
The Westmoreland installation costs US$323,000, and will generate 30 kilowatts of electricity, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. The Flow-to-Wire installation will save the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County $40,000 per year in energy costs.
Rentricity has identified 6,500 PRV sites in the US that have the potential to 520 mWs of clean energy from $1.5 billion of installed capital cost, according to the company. Other hydrokinetic energy projects have sought to generate power from tidal forces.