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Power Earth Science Technology

The World's First Osmotic Power Plant 262

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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  • Impact (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bellegante ( 1519683 ) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:23PM (#30242160)
    I wonder what environmental impacts this has, and if they will prevent these things from going into real use?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:43PM (#30242284)

    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?
    Unlike oil, we need fresh water to live.

    Unless there is a reverse osmosis process that energy can be harnessed from, which I doubt.

    No this is strictly for the mouth of rivers that empty into the ocean anyway. You'd only be able to divert a percentage of the water without major environmental issues. The real problem is I've read about the concept before but it's a really low pressure system so I'm not convinced you can get significant amounts of electricity from the system. I'm betting the numbers they are quoting are based on damning every river mouth which would be a disaster. It's cheaper and safer to use tidal turbines and there's drastically more power available. The approach my be new but it's not going to replace fossil fuels or even wind power.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:45PM (#30242292)

    If you pumped the spent water into a lake (either artificial or man-made), then the sun will do the work in retrieving fresh water from brackish water. Since the water has to essentially be isolated from other water sources to prevent ecological damage, one way you could make use of this otherwise-useless lake (whilst you're waiting for it to evaporate) is to use it as an energy reservoir. I'm not sure of the proper name, but the idea is that you store power by pumping water from the lower lake to the higher one, and then retrieve it by running it back through a turbine. Then, you use a non-base-load power source like solar/wind/etc, and hey presto, it's transformed into base-load! Of course, the problem is that this requires two adjacent lakes - plus, a whole slew of other engineering, geographic and/or financial challenges. But I'm an armchair speculator, what do I care for reality?

  • by Rostin ( 691447 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @12:32AM (#30242574)

    How does it seem destructive to the environment?

  • by MishgoDog ( 909105 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:18AM (#30243044)
    Whilst I agree with your comment that it won't deplete fresh water, your implication that it won't have a significant environmental impact is 'ridiculous, short-sighted, and causes more harm than good'.

    Marine ecology is actually highly sensitive to salinity in the water - and this process increases relative salinity in the water. Whilst this won't affect the volume of fresh water available for human use, it will have significant impact on marine life living in the unique ecosystem that exists at a rivers mouth.

    Rivers typically also wash a huge amount of nutrients into the ocean (from runoff, natural effluent and the like) - I have no idea how / if these plants will affect these nutrients, but as anyone who has ever fished at a river mouth will know, salt water fish follow that leading edge of 'brown' water to feed off the food washed down by it.

    There will be an impact and - similar to Australian plans to pipe fresh water from parts of Australia with plenty to those parts with very little - there seems to have been very little analysis into the impact on marine ecology, and until that has been done, one can't say there won't be any impact. Why do people forget the fishies?!
  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:47AM (#30243152) Journal
    But one of the problem with this, is showing up RIGHT NOW. France got so reliant on one type of nuke, that right now, they have to shutdown a number of nukes (emergency fixes), so are currently buying power from areas all around them. At this current moment, France is importing electricity. We need to get nations to change their energy matrix. In particular, nations need to be encouraged to NOT do more than 1/3 of a single type of power. Think about China with dependency of 77% on coal and 10-15% on Natural Gas. or America with Coal at 48% and Natural gas at 19%. All these nations have such dependency on ONE form of energy that it is expensive to change.

    America and China are fighting having to drop their fossil fuels because we are so dependent on this. If real issues (not the hysteria) ever show up on Nukes, then France will be forced to move away. And that will be interesting.
  • by FlyingGuy ( 989135 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `yuggniylf'> on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:47AM (#30243154)

    Ever looked at the water coming down the Mississippi? I wonder what the silt content per liter of water is?

    Now I am not a RO expert, not by a long shot, but I know that the water coming to the membrane has to be fairly particulate free.

    I really cannot fathom what kind of pre-filtering would have to be done to make this work in such a river basin. Perhaps in am area where there is a huge glacier run off that is pretty clean to begin with. <shrug>

  • by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:57AM (#30243210)

    You ain't seen silt until you've seen a real glacial runoff river.

    But yeah, I have no doubt there are some serious and maybe impossible engineering challenges, I'm just making the point that from a basic physics perspective, the energy is there.

  • by SeeSchloss ( 886510 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:32AM (#30243362) Homepage

    That's because of the way you do it. Every single of your nuclear plants is most probably completely different from all the others, maintenance is also probably done by many different companies... every new plant is built like it was the first one you ever built, and every plant is maintained like it was the only one you had, so you never make economies of scale (but each politician who builds a plant gets to please a friend's company, yay).

    NB: I'm just guessing for Ontario, based on how things are often done in North America and observations from an uncle whose job is to check the safety of nuclear plants.

  • by Composite_Armor ( 1203112 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @04:09AM (#30243538)

    I think an osmotic power plant is the lamest type of power i can think of.

    Fusion is the only way i can see it going, really if we are going to be great conquerers of the galaxy, and fly around in Millennium Falcon type spaceships.

    Anyway, Fusion is the only way to go because, we will either fix the problem, or maybe blow ourselves up.

    It will be a race between ITER and the LHC.
    Between explosion and implosion.

    Maybe we should hook.. them,. together?..

    ^mtrl drtw

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27, 2009 @04:46AM (#30243694)

    So salt water is heavier, and high pressure osmotic filters squeeze the salt out of salt water.

    Here's another idea.

    Run a pipe down to deep water; full of fresh water. At the bottom, there is higher pressure outside the pipe because of the density difference of salt to fresh water. This difference can push salt water through a reverse osmotic filter placed at the end of the pipe.

    Now you have a pipe full of fresh water, and salt water that wants to get in there. That pressure difference could drive a flow of water through that filter.

    What's more, the head could even drive that flow of fresh water up the beach, since the pipe would be pressurized at the surface. (It takes a higher tube of fresh water to equalize the pressure of a tube of salt water.)

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