Jul 13 2013

Awesome Osmosis

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Oceanic renewable energy is becoming more and more popular as we have discovered the vast amounts of energy that is contained in the ocean. A great many of techniques and strategies have been brooding in the minds of scientists to harness all of this energy, and one of the most interesting and intriguing ideas is extracting energy by way of osmosis. This process includes pumping seawater into a chamber that is sitting in fresh water and has a semipermeable membrane. Water diffuses into the chamber as a result of the differences in osmotic pressure between fresh and seawater. This causes an increase in volume inside the chamber, which in turn increases the pressure which then turns a turbine.

This type of renewable energy is so fascinating because of all the advantages it has over other oceanic renewable energy sources. First of all, the source of the energy is always constant. The rivers flowing into the ocean will always continue to flow unless they are somehow dried up. Wind, however, is not always constant; sometimes it will be there in full force but other times it may merely be able to make a turbine quiver. Waves are also variable in their strength. Another huge advantage of energy by osmosis is the location of the power plants. The plants are located on land where rivers meet the ocean. This location has two big upsides. The first one is that many big cities are built next to large rivers on the coast meaning that the electricity will not have far to travel from the plant; this will cut down on energy lost due to transportation. The other advantage of this location is the cost of production and maintenance. Workers won’t to have to travel out far into the ocean to build and or fix the plants (as the plants are on land), and the facilities will not have to endure the torturous open ocean, unlike wind turbines and wave buoys.

First osmosis power plant build in Norway

A third advantage of extracting energy by way of osmosis is that it won’t interfere much with the cycles of life. The pressure created by the osmosis is what is actually being used to spin the turbine not the energy in the flow of the water. Once the water is done being used it will be released back into the ocean therefore not interfering too much with the cycle of rivers flowing into the ocean. Wind turbines however generate their power directly from the energy of the wind. This physically takes some of the wind out of the air, which could effect the wind cycles.

So not only is the idea of extracting energy by way of osmosis a very interesting concept, it also has many advantages to it and seems like a very promising source of renewable energy for the future.

Sources:

“Power of Osmosis used to Deliver Eco-Friendly Energy” The Guardian, November 25, 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/25/osmosis-plant-emission-free-energy (July 12, 2013)

Roger Bernard and others, June 2010, An Overview of Ocean Renewable Technologies, (July 12, 2013)

Rachel Nuwer, April 2012, A Jones for Osomsis; New Potential Power in Rivers’ Flow to Sea, Renewableenergyworld.com, http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/04/a-jones-for-osmosis-new-potential-for-power-in-rivers-flow-to-sea (July 12, 2013)

 

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