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Power Earth Science Technology

The World's First Osmotic Power Plant 262

Posted by timothy
from the it-oozes-power-into-the-bucket dept.
ElectricSteve writes "Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway officially opened the world's first osmotic power plant prototype on November 24. The prototype has a limited production capacity and will be used primarily for testing and data validation, leading to the construction of a commercial power plant in a few years time. Statkraft claims that the technology has the global potential to generate clean, renewable energy equivalent to China's total electricity consumption in 2002 or half of the EU's total power production" What's osmotic power? Wikipedia to the rescue!
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The World's First Osmotic Power Plant

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:25PM (#30242172)

    Seriously... Why are we bothering with this nonsense. There is no way this system can produce that much power and it seems ridiculously destructive to the environment.
    Nuclear power is the way to go! The Greenpeace crowd needs to acknowledge that they've done more harm than good, in lobbying against nuclear power.

    Luddites the lot of them.

  • Re:Impact (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dakohli (1442929) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:37PM (#30242232)
    According to the wikipedia article, the main drawback deals with discharging Brackish water back into the ecosystem. If large amounts are produced, which seems to be the case it could change local salinity levels causing a change in the local aquatic life. I guess the question here is: Is it worth it? And is this change significant enough to really worry about it. Everything we do on the Planet changes it. I can't believe all change is bad. The earth's ecosystem is in constant flux anyway. I guess it is a question for the slashdot philosophers.
  • by smitty777 (1612557) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:39PM (#30242242) Journal

    An interesting aspect mentioned in TFA is the fact that you need two water sources, i.e., a river of fresh water that empties into a salt sea. So it would seem that they are just doing preemptively what nature would have done anyway. It actually seems like a pretty non-destructive method to me.

  • by dbIII (701233) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:43PM (#30242276)
    Unfortunately nuclear power for civilian purposes does not come close to meeting it's claims, however there are a few designs in development or even at the prototype stage (pebble bed) that look promising.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:58PM (#30242374)

    And what claims are those? Nuclear power is the predominant form of power in many countries and it does well. The pebble bed design is interesting, but even 70s plant designs were fine. People like to ignore the fact that coal burning plants send up far more radioactive elements in the atmosphere than even a "disaster" like 3 mile island.

    What's more, there is a lot of posturing about nuclear "waste", when it is far from waste. If a byproduct is energetic enough to be dangerous, then it is energetic enough to be fuel. If it weren't for stupid proliferation treaties and unscientific environmentalists, we would be using breeder reactors to derive much of our energy form all this "waste". We wouldn't have a huge dependence on foreign oil, and possibly thousands of lives would not be in jeopardy because of wars in the middle eats.

    But by all means, please keep singing your tune. There is no consequence to spouting lies like yours, no one gets hurt...

  • Re:Impact (Score:3, Insightful)

    by couchslug (175151) on Friday November 27, 2009 @12:22AM (#30242532)

    Given the swill US rivers dump into oceans, perhaps combining this process with pollutant separation would improve the outflow while generating power.

  • by MrMista_B (891430) on Friday November 27, 2009 @12:41AM (#30242644)

    That is /not/ a valid worry.

    The plant is next to a river, which empties into the ocean.

    Part of the nature of rivers, is that they transport fresh water easily.

    Depleting a supply of fresh water, when you are on a RIVER next to the OCEAN is not only not a valid worry, it is a stupid worry that verges on the same sort of knee-jerk hysteria that lead the pumping millions of tons of radioactive material into the atmosphere because of coal burning, instead of using nuclear plants.

    It's ridiculous, short-sighted, and causes more harm than good.

  • Re:Impact (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rakshasa Taisab (244699) on Friday November 27, 2009 @12:41AM (#30242646) Homepage
    It might come as news to some, but nature is continuously discharging fresh water into salt water, producing brackish water on a humongous scale.

    It's called rivers flowing out into the sea.
  • by MrNaz (730548) * on Friday November 27, 2009 @12:47AM (#30242676) Homepage

    Desalination plant will consumer more energy than the water it produces can generate, because in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics.

    Why is it that every time anything power related is posted to /. there are a bunch of people who suggest perpetual motion machines? What happened to /. being for nerds? Nerds would know perpetual motion when they see it, and know that it's not possible. This is the fourth comment I've read in this thread that has fallen foul of this so far.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27, 2009 @01:23AM (#30242832)

    I think with what you're proposing, you'll have a VERY salty lake after a while =)

    But really, after reading the article it requires salt water AND fresh water. Meaning it's going to be some place where both are readily accessible, and therefore building man-made lakes to store the brackish water for reintroduction is useless. You can just pump it into the ocean if you'd like.

  • by Jeremi (14640) on Friday November 27, 2009 @01:30AM (#30242852) Homepage

    Although I like this idea. Won't it just deplete our supply of fresh water? If we're constantly running our fresh water through a membrane into salt water, won't our "fuel" of fresh water run out?

    Really, this is what passes for insightful these days?

    Every time it rains, the rain is composed fresh water that was evaporated from the ocean and desalinated in the process. That process has occurred for millions of years, and will continue for the foreseeable future, no matter what we do. All the fresh water that gets salinated on its way through this plant would have been salinated anyway, when it entered the ocean.

  • Re:Impact (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DigiShaman (671371) on Friday November 27, 2009 @01:37AM (#30242888) Homepage

    ...which would be important to the locals

    Could be important. Could. Change happens all the time in nature, but not all of it is bad. Until a full environmental study has been concluded, lets not take an alarmist view here without knowing the facts beforehand.

  • by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:02AM (#30242990)

    I think a big part is that its been working and practical for 30 years while no new plants have been built, and that many feel its been held back from development by the NIMBY masses. If more intelligent and less fearful handling of nuclear power had existed in the past we might be in better shape than we are now. While I don't agree with the grandparent that pursuing other alternatives isn't worthwhile, I do feel that nuclear power is a strong component of a sustainable future energy strategy.

    I imagine this particular technology will be economical, useful, but limited in its implementation, just as hydroelectric power is. Just as with hydro power, the ultimate power source is the evaporation, vapor movement and rain caused by the sun -- though I can't claim to be certain, I'd imagine you could predict now the total amount of power available from this, and I'd imagine it is significant but no panacea. This is the general problem I and other nuclear proponents see: not that "clean" power technology is bad or boring, but that current concepts of wind, solar and tidal seem incapable of meeting current demand -- anything that doesn't meet current demand is unlikely to be solely used if alternatives (such as nuclear) exist, since the public would rather not be inconvenienced.

    To counter your objections:
    1. The toxic material can be reduced significantly by reprocessing the fuels. This poses a proliferation risk, but France and other countries have managed to do so for years without losing any material. It was banned by executive order by Carter, an order that should be rescinded. Also, interestingly and amusingly, Yucca Mountain is only 10 or 20 miles from an old nuclear test site, making the objections to the storage site seem less based on reality.

    2. As we continue to operate older and older plants this is bound to be a problem. Extending the operating life past what they were designed for is bound to create safety trouble, but new ones have been impossible to build for decades, and replacing them with coal plants is not better in my mind. New construction and a renaissance in safer plant design (pebble beds are particularly impressive) can mitigate a lot of risk. Also, while the safety concerns are real and significant, and shouldn't be downplayed, I think the general public overestimates the danger -- Three Mile Island released no radiation and showed the validity of safety precautions.

  • by izomiac (815208) on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:11AM (#30243024) Homepage
    I was about to mod you as a troll, but thought it'd be better to explain why so you don't assume it's the pro-nuclear zealots conspiring against you.

    Last time I looked France even had a 40+ year old tidal hydro power station near Le Havre as well as a wide variety of other power plants. Try harder.

    France consumed 447.27 Billion Kilowatt-Hours [doe.gov] in 2007, but produced 542.41 Billion Kilowatt-Hours, 430 Billion Kilowatt-Hours were produced by nuclear power plants. They export electricity, but nuclear alone essentially covers their consumption. "France runs on nuclear power" would be an accurate statement.

    In that post you provide one fact in one sentence, and it's nit-picky and deceptive. You then proceed to argue as though anyone who reads about the topic or your posts agrees with you. This is in stark contrast to the obvious evidence that the GP has read on the topic (the references provided), and the fact that you have about five people arguing against you.

    I read your post because in my reading on the topic I came to the conclusion that nuclear is a great idea that's mostly opposed by antiquated concerns about accidents and waste. But, my curiosity was piqued when I saw an argument about something else, and figured that you might have a good point (i.e. obviously nuclear isn't taking off so maybe there's more validity to counterarguments than I am aware of). But I was sorely disappointed by the lack of references, explanations, or basic consistency or logic. You do sound as though you know enough that you could formulate a good opposing position if you weren't trolling though.

  • by osu-neko (2604) on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:21AM (#30243048)

    depending of course how much fresh water you take

    No, not depending on that at all. The fresh water used, if not taken by the plant, just goes directly into the ocean to become saltwater anyway. And WTF are you talking about with this "downstream" thing? There's nothing downstream from the mouth of a river...

  • by osu-neko (2604) on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:22AM (#30243054)

    Desalination plant will consumer more energy than the water it produces can generate, because in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics.

    Why is it that every time anything power related is posted to /. there are a bunch of people who suggest perpetual motion machines? What happened to /. being for nerds? Nerds would know perpetual motion when they see it, and know that it's not possible. This is the fourth comment I've read in this thread that has fallen foul of this so far.

    Alas, not all nerds know a joke when they see it...

  • by plague911 (1292006) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:24AM (#30243324)
    The good part is that you can do a good crapy job and it still will be a major positive Considering the efficiency right now of the system is 0% a quick dirty and CHEAP solution can do nothing but provide a massive amounts of virtually free energy. This is one of these things like geothermal/solar energy. The ability to do them right requires the right land/environmental structure. In a lot of areas this will not make sense. However in the right area the profit margins are nice and high. Im not sure if people are being serious when they worry about depleting the fresh water supply or just have dry sense of humor or are drunk out of their minds(Happy Thanksgiving) . But this will not deplete the fresh water supply of the world. As far as i know there are NO technologies which can make a river flow faster into the ocean..... The environment impacts of this will be similar but less than that of traditional hydopower plants. The reason why it will be less than is that there likely will be no need for turbines.
  • Re:Impact (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Another, completely (812244) on Friday November 27, 2009 @04:37AM (#30243650)

    It's not creating salt or importing it from anywhere. The total amount of salt in the neighbourhood of the plant will not be changed. If the concentration is moved around a bit, there is a river right there to feed a mixing pool to moderate the salinity before releasing the salt into the sea.

    I can understand the point that they should be aware of the issue, but I feel certain that it can be completely dealt with.

  • by orzetto (545509) on Friday November 27, 2009 @05:17AM (#30243832)

    People like to ignore the fact that coal burning plants send up far more radioactive elements in the atmosphere than even a "disaster" like 3 mile island.

    For the umpteenth time: this is irrelevant. What is dangerous about radiation poisoning is its concentration, not its absolute value. Our bodies, and pretty much every life form on the planet, has evolved with the ability to withstand a certain amount of background radiation. If you dilute the radiation enough, the problem will go away. So stop saying that the total amount of radiation released from a coal power plant makes it more dangerous than waste from a nuclear plant.

    You may claim that, at nominal conditions, nuclear plants are cleaner than coal plants. You may even claim that nuclear waste does not give the same problems as coal combustion products. But claiming that coal power causes are more dangerous than nuclear power from the point of view of radiation poisoning is nuts.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27, 2009 @07:10AM (#30244332)
    I prefer Polywell. Seriously, have you taken a look at the size of ITER and the NIF? Now imagine trying to stick that on a spaceship. Compare to IEC, whose power output scales as the fourth power of the vessel's diameter (if it works).
  • Re:Impact (Score:3, Insightful)

    by realityimpaired (1668397) on Friday November 27, 2009 @07:50AM (#30244496)

    It appears that you may not have actually read the article.

    It's to be built where rivers run into the sea. Rivers usually run with fresh water. It takes input from the river, puts it in an osmosis chamber with water from the sea, and spits the result out into the area where that river water was going to mix with the sea water anyway. There's zero net loss of fresh potable water as compared to what was going to happen anyway (as part of the natural water cycle), and as they're dumping the result into an area where the brackish water was going to form anyway, there's zero net polllution.

    The real question is whether it's efficient enough to run large scale. It's all well and good that you can produce 1.7TW of energy, but if it costs you 1.5TW to do it, then it's not worth it.

  • Re:Impact (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Plunky (929104) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:12AM (#30244568)

    Osmosis does not create or destroy any salt content. Fresh river water is mixed with salt water from the sea and discharged EXACTLY where it would have been discharged by nature with the EXACT same average salinity as the mixed water at the rivers mouth.

    You might count me as an evironmentalist because I can see the problem with your argument. A river discharges into the sea and there is a certain amount of fresh water and a certain amount of salinity. But, a local study would always have to be done. A river is not a tap discharging into a basin, often the tide moves in and out and the salinity varies accordingly. Also, there will be brackish water that is warmer or cooler or muddier than the open sea or the upstream river and having a power plant that takes the fresh and mixes it inside the power plant with the salt and emits it at a fixed place would change all that. In the olden days you could just build it and be done but these days we recognise that sometimes local effects have far reaching consequences. For instance if you block the salmon from swimming upstream, then several years down the line - no more salmon. There could be an ecosystem locally that you would like to keep for whatever reason (marshland bird sanctuary?)

    I'm not in any way raising an objection to such a power plant and perhaps it would be a good thing (sounds pretty cool), but for sure I say that care should be taken to understand the costs and risks involved before taking them. (Banking industry take note!)

  • by amilo100 (1345883) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:41AM (#30244682)
    Nuclear power produces base-power, it can not produce peak-power

    For interest sake, peak power is almost removed in some countries due to differing costs of electricity. You will be surprised how much industry (big and small) is started up at non-peak times.
  • by Rising Ape (1620461) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:58AM (#30245464)

    If you dilute the radiation enough, the problem will go away. So stop saying that the total amount of radiation released from a coal power plant makes it more dangerous than waste from a nuclear plant.

    Actually, the standard radiation protection models do *not* assume that radiation is only dangerous beyond a threshold, which is why accidents like Chernobyl have very large numbers of fatal cancers predicted (~10000). Most of these will be in people only exposed to small doses, but the exposed population is huge. Nobody offsite from Chernobyl suffered from acute radiation effects, IIRC, just delayed effects such as cancers (particularly thyroid).

  • by jbengt (874751) on Friday November 27, 2009 @11:07AM (#30245526)

    Nuclear power produces base-power, it can not produce peak-power. . . . Currently only oil and coal have that ability

    I don't believe that coal is considered as a good candidate for turning on and off rapidly in order to meet peak power demand and oil is pretty expensive compared to most other energy sources. Around here (northern Illinois) most of our base load is met by coal and nuclear and most of the peaker plants are natural gas. Looking forward, solar has a potential for providing a significant peaking capacity in the cooling season, when A/C loads match solar availability pretty well. Also, I'd bet that most electricity is not used during peak hours, unless you stretch the definition of peak hours to a larger part of the day than is usually brought to mind by the term "peak".

  • by dbIII (701233) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:58PM (#30251406)

    I don't believe that coal is considered as a good candidate for turning on and off rapidly

    It takes a very long time to start up a large boiler and there are very serious thermal fatigue problems caused by large numbers of shutdowns and startups. The workaround for this is to just keep on shovelling in the coal even when you don't need the electricity. It's less coal than if it was running at full capacity, but coal fired power stations are really a base load power source and not very efficient for peaks.

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