Pilot Plant in Dam extracts energy from differences in salinity




A number of companies and research this week take the first Blue-power “in use. The pilot plant at the Dam generates renewable energy from the difference in salinity between river and sea water.

The membranes of the system, developed by the University of Twente’s MESA + research, separating positively and negatively charged particles of the sweet river water and seawater. Because salt water contains many more ions, there arises a difference in voltage. The only “waste product” is brackish water.

By improving the membrane technology, the researchers have been able to increase the yield. The membranes deliver research labs currently 1,3W per sqm. The new test facility on the Dam, the researchers want to increase the return to 2 to 3W. This would be economically viable.

For the moment, the Redstack built by Blue-power ‘400 sqm of membranes, which are spaced apart between 0.3 and 0.5mm. The membranes must process every hour 220,000 liters of salt and fresh water. Increase the surface area in the coming years to 100,000m², so 200 to 300kW must be generated. A commercial plant would need at least one square kilometer membrane and this is according to the researchers also feasible. It is still a challenge to fouling of the membranes, for instance by algal growth, to counteract. The chance of freshwater scarcity, and ‘mute’ the tides are other challenges.

The scientists show in the Netherlands with its lakes and rivers that flow into the North Sea and Wadden much potential for ‘blue energy’. The developers think that 10 percent of electricity consumption in the Netherlands with this technology can be generated; future installations in the Dam could supply power to half a million households. Energy generated in this way would allow a competitive without subsidy price of 8 cents per kWh. In addition, day and night, there may be a continuous current to be generated, in contrast to what is possible with solar and wind energy.


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