UPC researchers design a device to harvest hydroelectric energy from water flowing in pipes

One of the designs of the device for piping applications created by UPC researchers

One of the designs of the device for piping applications created by UPC researchers

The UPC’s Barcelona Fluids & Energy Lab and the Centre for Technological Innovation in Static Converters and Drives participate in the European project H-HOPE, focused on developing solutions to harvest green energy from as yet untapped water sources such as water pipes and canals.

Mar 29, 2023

Hydroelectric power accounts for approximately 35% of electricity generated from renewable sources, providing a unique combination of safe, low-cost and clean electricity production. Capitalising on this form of green energy is vital in transitioning to more sustainable energy production models and increasing resilience to climate change.

However, the potential of hydraulic networks is underexploited, especially low-flow systems, such as pipes, canals and streams. Funded by the Horizon Europe programme, the project Hidden Hydro Oscillating Power for Europe - H-Hope aims to use these unexploited sources. The consortium is made up of 13 partners from nine countries, led by the University of Padua (Italy), including the Barcelona Fluids & Energy Lab (IFLUIDS) research group and the Centre for Technological Innovation in Static Converters and Drives (CITCEA) of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - BarcelonaTech (UPC).

The project aims to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to harvest hydraulic energy from existing piping systems, open streams and open canals. This will set the stage for a market of energy harvesters, which will digitalise networks allowing real-time monitoring, reducing maintenance costs and improving management. As a result, managers of water supply networks and streams will also be able to operate their distribution systems more efficiently, saving energy and costs.

Innovative solutions for hydroelectric energy harvesting
The project partners will develop three energy harvesting devices adapted to piping systems, open canals and open streams respectively, which will be tested and validated in real operating conditions reproduced in laboratories.

The IFLUIDS research group and CITCEA, coordinated by researchers Xavier Escaler and Daniel Montesinos respectively, will work on designing a particular solution for piping applications. It is a 20-centimeter device incorporating piezoelectrics that will vibrate inside the pipes and thus generate hydroelectric energy. This energy could feed IoT sensors and other systems.

The technology developed by UPC researchers will assist the operators of water supply networks and streams to identify potential pilot sites, and to collect and analyse the corresponding data that will support the design, testing and validation of the energy harvesting systems.

The ultimate goal of the project is to pave the way for designing marketable technology that provides a new source of hydroelectric energy. The data obtained would allow, for example, to evaluate water quality for irrigation, manage irrigation, feed data to meteorological stations with sensors that register environmental parameters, monitor biodiversity in a river and provide developing communities with a simple and low-cost system for generating electricity.

The project will also provide citizens with an online platform to help them to create their own hydroelectric energy generation systems.

Funded under the EU Climate, Energy and Mobility programme, the project will run until October 2026.