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The World's First Osmotic Power Plant

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the it-oozes-power-into-the-bucket dept.

Power 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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Impact (3, Interesting)

Bellegante (1519683) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242160)

I wonder what environmental impacts this has, and if they will prevent these things from going into real use?

Re:Impact (5, Insightful)

dakohli (1442929) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Impact (1)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242456)

I'd like to know how much energy these plants will actually produce when it's production level. It seems to be an extremely low impact solution, except where boats need to enter/exit riverways, and for that matter fish.

Re:Impact (4, Funny)

emilper (826945) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243298)

except where boats need to enter/exit riverways, and for that matter fish.

... you _should_ think of the fish ... they have children, too

Re:Impact (5, Insightful)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242646)

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.

Re:Impact (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242756)

Well, that's great and all, but there is such a thing as local ecology, which would be important to the locals. "Environmental concerns" are not some global, zero-sum game.

Re:Impact (1, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242888)

...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.

Re:Impact (0, Redundant)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242302)

The Wiki article has a pretty good paragraph on this. The main worry is introducing brackish water into the environment. FT(W)A: "Marine and river environments have obvious differences in water quality, namely salinity. Each species of aquatic plant and animal is adapted to survive in either marine, brackish, or freshwater environments. There are species that can tolerate both, but these species usually thrive best in a specific water environment."

Re:Impact (2, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242532)

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

Re:Impact (0)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242960)

It's completely environmentally positive, as are the magic beans I have. If you plant them, they'll grow into wind driven dynamos that will provide power for free.

Unfortunately the R&D on my magic beans was quite extensive so I have to charge quite a bit for them. I'm sure you understand.

Nuclear power plants (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Nuclear power plants are offtopic, but here goes (1, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Nuclear power plants are offtopic, but here goe (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Nuclear power plants are offtopic, but here goe (-1, Flamebait)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242556)

but even 70s plant designs were fine

So long as you don't care about expense, output, safety, expected operating life and requiring more expensive fuel than can be used now - by exactly what measurement are you describing 1970s plants as fine?

far more radioactive elements in the atmosphere than even a "disaster" like 3 mile island.

That is what is known as a divide by zero error so I suggest refraining from spreading such bullshit. The uniquely thick containment vessel at TMI theoretically stopped everything so theoretically your lunch contains more radioactive material (it also contains more than the same mass of coal, coal has real problems that kill people without making things up like this crap that came out of Oak Ridge in the 1970s). Nobody mentioned coal anyway, I don't like the idea of more coal fired plants either especially because I've worked in them so your confusion on the issue of background radiation is irrelevant here.

There is no consequence to spouting lies like yours

So what lie was that exactly?
I also suggest learning a little more about your subject matter before advocating it so strongly, the portion about waste reveals you have a lot to learn about how these plants are fueled. With the proposed accelerated thorium reactors you may eventually come close to being correct but with current plants the fuel has to be highly radioactive to be of use. Also the current breeders have been a disappointing dead end and upcoming technologies that people lump under the same name as breeders do not yet have any sort of prototype constructed.

Re:Nuclear power plants are offtopic, but here goe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242620)

CANDU reactors, which can run on unenriched uranium and have been around since the 60's. Waste levels are directly related to reprocessing bans. Do disappointing "current breeders" include the successful but politically dead Integral Fast Reactor that the USA democrats killed in the early 90's?

Re:Nuclear power plants are offtopic, but here goe (5, Informative)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242680)

safey: nuclear power stations have an outstanding saftey record. CHECK.http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf06.html

expense: nuclear power costs very little. CHECK. http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html [world-nuclear.org]

operating life: nuclear power stations have a long life span, plants built in the 60's are still going. CHECK. http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf08.html [world-nuclear.org]

ouput: do i even need to provide a reference on this one? nuclear power runs whole nations such as france.

it would seem good sir, that you are the one spreading bullshit. I call you out on your anti nuke nonsense, you know nothing about the subject past what greenpeace has shoved down your throat.

Re:Nuclear power plants are offtopic, but here goe (-1, Troll)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242782)

ouput: do i even need to provide a reference on this one? nuclear power runs whole nations such as france.

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. It's especially funny that on the next line you accused me of spreading bullshit. Why is it that such a mild statement that is difficult to dismiss due to the wild claims of the old guard nuclear lobby invokes such venom? Since you are the one suggesting that the wild claims are true I suggest you come up with something to suprise me and prove your point.
I suggest you try reading more widely about plant life, paticularly about nuclear plants.
It really annoys me that a mild remark correcting an error by a nuclear power advocate raises such a response from people that really have little idea of what it is. Hit the net and dispel the stupid preconception in your heads that a Westinghouse dinosaur plant painted green is perfect and learn that people have actually been working on the problems associated with nuclear power and making it a more viable alternative. If you live in the past spouting a 1950s vision of a future that never happened you will just get laughed at.

Re:Nuclear power plants are offtopic, but here goe (5, Insightful)

izomiac (815208) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243024)

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.

Re:Nuclear power plants are offtopic, but here goe (1)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243336)

Ok, since you are criticising the worthiness of the guy's post as an argument then I think it is fair to look at some of what you say.

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.

  1. "Nit-picky and deceptive" are value judgements, not arguments or facts. And the complaint has a whiff of the ad hominem about it, although strictly speaking it isn't ad hominem.
  2. I don't think you can read evidence (unless you are a crime scene investigator). And the references provided all seem to be from one source which, by its name, might be suspected of not being entirely unbiased.
  3. The number of people arguing against him has nothing to do with the validity, or lack thereof, of his arguments. He may be right, he may be wrong, but whichever it is sure isn't a function of the number of people who agree or disagree with him.

Re:Nuclear power plants are offtopic, but here goe (5, Informative)

Lorens (597774) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243118)

ouput: do i even need to provide a reference on this one? nuclear power runs whole nations such as france.

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.

79% of electricity produced in France is produced in nuclear reactors.

http://www.planete-energies.com/contenu/nucleaire/production-consommation.html [planete-energies.com]

Another source says that out of all energy consumed in France (including fuel for cars and such), 44% is of nuclear origin.

Maybe it is not correct to say that nuclear power runs the whole nation, but the nation sure wouldn't run without it.

Re:Nuclear power plants are offtopic, but here goe (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243152)

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.

Re:Nuclear power plants are offtopic, but here goe (2, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242934)

Nucular power ain't safe if there're terr'ists that gonna blow it skyhigh or steal fuel to make a dirty bomb.

If it weren't for the U.S. authorities clever detective work we'd a had another 9/11 [wikipedia.org] on our hands.

Re:Nuclear power plants are offtopic, but here goe (1)

xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242600)

Here in Ontario the big problem is cost. I don't know if this is an inherent problem with nuclear power or our province is just especially incompetent at running them, but nuclear plants we've had have just been fantastic money sinks (as opposed to every other method of power generation, which have been profitable) in terms of maintenance. One could argue that the monetary cost is worth it the environmental benefits of nuclear, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to look into alternatives.

Re:Nuclear power plants are offtopic, but here goe (2, Interesting)

SeeSchloss (886510) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243362)

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.

Re:Nuclear power plants are offtopic, but here goe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242376)

I'm working on renewable extraneous apostrophe power. It is limitless. The amount of IT IS people use instead of ITS guarantees it. So can you explain why a power source that supplies 3% of the world'd demand does not come close to "it is" claims?

Re:Nuclear power plants (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242434)

Nuclear power is fine, until we run out of uranium. We will not run out of salt ocean any time soon.

Re:Nuclear power plants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242464)

We can manufacture more nuclear fuel by using breeder reactors.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeder_reactor

Re:Nuclear power plants (2, Informative)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242662)

That's not sustainable, as they're just more efficient, not a closed infinite loop. Entropy always increases. In this house...

Re:Nuclear power plants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30243070)

Technically solar power isn't sustainable either! Quoting entropy is funny and all, but it only serves to muddle the point.

If we are to only pursue "sustainable" sources of power we should just curl up and die, as even the mighty sun will diminish.

Re:Nuclear power plants (1)

Captain Segfault (686912) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242670)

We will not run out of salt ocean any time soon.

There is a nontrivial amount of uranium in that salt.

Re:Nuclear power plants (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242466)

No way?

About as likely as you giving a worthwhile and constructive comment?

Think about it.

Re:Nuclear power plants (2, Interesting)

Rostin (691447) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242574)

How does it seem destructive to the environment?

Re:Nuclear power plants (1)

Tibia1 (1615959) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242780)

I'm not even interested in being pro-environment at all. Everyone's wasting their time and they know it.
All I'm worried about is the fusion power and nanobots that will provide virtually unlimited power and a completely restored environment.

Radioactive waste? (0)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242846)

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.

What's with the love affair between geeks and nuclear power? Is it because its science is somehow more "exciting" and "spacey" than other areas of exploration?

There are two main problems with nuclear. . .

1. It creates very, very toxic shit which never goes away and is a huge pain in the ass to store.

2. While in theory it can be run safely, human stupidity results in toxic spills and catastrophic failures. --A friend of mine lived in a town with a big honking nuclear reactor. Radioactive water was leaching into the ground water. Nice. Incompetence and corruption were to blame for the failure to implement proper maintenance on an aging reactor. Basically Homer Simpson and Mr. Burns were (and remain) at the helm.

There's nothing actually wrong with clean power. It works well and it doesn't create toxic waste. We live in a world where we can create power without also creating poison. That's awesome! That is the Star Trek future we could be living right now, and in many cases we already are. So I don't understand why this is even a debate unless it's purely about aesthetics; nuclear power is a fashion accessory which goes well with some people's preferred mode of reality. Or something.

-FL

Re:Radioactive waste? (5, Insightful)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Radioactive waste? (1)

paul248 (536459) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243132)

We live in a world where we can create power without also creating poison. That's awesome! That is the Star Trek future we could be living right now.

For what it's worth, they used nuclear power in Star Trek. Solar power doesn't work when you're traveling to other stars.

Look (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243046)

I am fan of Nukes, BUT, the mistake that nations make is when they depend on 1 type of power. For example, France is CURRENTLY an electricity importer BECAUSE they depended so heavily on nukes. Likewise, America is in trouble because we depend on Coal for 50% of our power. Instead, nations need to have a matrix of power so that when you run intro problems (say, emergency change needed at your nuke power plant, or under pressure from the world to drop your CO2 emissions, caused in no small part by your heavy use of coal power), then you can drop your usage. So yes, I want to see America's use of nukes increase to 33%, and go no further. Likewise, I would like to see us increase our AE to heavy percentages, but no more than 33% on any one tech. In fact, I would argue that Wind and Solar pv should not be more than 10%. The reason is that they are not base load power. OTH, The Mississippi is capable of generating a LOT of power. The same is true of other rivers around the world. Likewise, geo-thermal will no doubt be a major input to the world's matrix if Potter drilling gets done.

to stupid logic (1)

Odinlake (1057938) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243194)

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.

Obviously nuclear power hasn't solved the worlds energy problems yet and weather it will remains to be seen. Until then I'm all for researching all conceivable options - with the future uncertain few thigs are sure, but knowledge being power is pretty damn close. Oh, and I tire of fools who reject an idea just because that idea alone doesn't solve everything.

Destructive? (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243232)

It just changes the salinity gradient of the river mouth a bit (which already shifts based on the river flow which is hardly static year round).

Re:Nuclear power plants (1)

WegianWarrior (649800) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243290)

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.

We're bothering, as you put it, due to several reasons:
- First off, this is taking place in Norway. Norway has plenty of rivers which delivers lots of fresh water to areas where there is lots of salt water. Norway also decided many years ago to NOT build any nuclear power plants.
- Secondly, there is this idea that you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket. Reactors are nice and all, but what do you do with them when you run out of fuel? Uranium is a finite resource, but the water cycle goes on forever.
- Thirdly, what about nuclear waste? Should we store it in your back yard?
And for the record, this is about as destructive to the environment as letting rivers flow into the sea... and you don't see Greenpeace protesting rivers, do you?

Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (0)

chode8 (1594993) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242184)

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.

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (0)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242238)

This is a valid worry. However, part of the nature of fresh water is that you can't transport it easily. So if you are in an area that has an abundance of fresh water then this is a viable alternative. Since you can't do anything else with the water using it for this makes sense. Moreover, fresh water refreshes itself in the right areas so you will get a new supply.

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242622)

nah, you don't need 'fresh' water. you just need 2 different waters: 1 with less stuff dissolved than the first so that there is osmotic pressure difference. tho the more extreme the difference the more pressure there will be. so i imagine using fresh water water would prob be more efficient

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (4, Insightful)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (1)

itsthebin (725864) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243006)

depending of course how much fresh water you take

Just look at the problems caused by dams on the Mekong and the effects it has downstream

or water being used from the murray river for irrigation and the effects it has downstream

do not dismiss the effects of changes

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (2, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#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...

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (3, Interesting)

MishgoDog (909105) | more than 4 years ago | (#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?!

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243134)

Yes, this plant is next to a river. The question was about the technique in general.

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (4, Insightful)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242242)

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.

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242388)

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.

Yeah , but what effect does this have on the wildlife that lives in that ecosystem? I've heard that these kinds of problems happen in dams, and also in places where nuke plants dump their cooling water, which is actually warmer than the stream they feed into.

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242762)

At some point, if we need energy, when do we say, "oh well?" Seriously, if you have 50 million homes to heat, cities to power, etc... When does the balance tip? Heck, people complain about windmills because they will kill birds, tide power because it will impact tides, nuclear because it will deplete uranium reserves, on and on. At some point, we will need to impact in order to survive.

Actually, (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243090)

I was wondering about this. The delta (which is mostly brackish water) typically has a great deal of life. I am wondering if the plants at the lowest level make use of this energy, or does it just get wasted? And just because somebody says that it is wasted, does not mean that it is. There is plenty that we do not know. Hopefully, we found out during these trials. I mean, if the miss has 47 GW available, that is a LOT of energy that could be REAL useful. Likewise, all over the world, you have loads of fresh water that mixes that can be used for CHEAP power.

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243096)

Yeah , but what effect does this have on the wildlife that lives in that ecosystem? I've heard that these kinds of problems happen in dams, and also in places where nuke plants dump their cooling water, which is actually warmer than the stream they feed into.

If done carelessly, it could kill all the marine life near the plant. If done carefully, it could have no impact at all, since what it's doing is what's being done already anyway (mixing fresh and salt water). The trick would be to discharge the brackish water (which is just water saltier than freshwater but not as salty as ocean water) in a place where the water was already brackish (which shouldn't be too far away, since we're locating the plant at the mouth of a river where freshwater is mixing with saltwater anyway).

just hook a desalt plant to it and reuse it out pu (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242560)

just hook a desalt plant to it and reuse it out put

Re:just hook a desalt plant to it and reuse it out (4, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242676)

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.

Re:just hook a desalt plant to it and reuse it out (3, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#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...

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (1)

jelizondo (183861) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242278)

Not really, but it depends on volume.

The sun evaporates salt water in the sea and it falls as fresh water into the land, thus replenishing the "fuel".

Again, if the volume of rain is less than the volume used then yes, one would run out. But this happens in a natural fashion all the time, rivers run dry because of drought or overflow because of rain higher than usual.

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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?

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242298)

Like all energy sources, there are places good enough to use it and places where it doesn't make sense at all.

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242480)

and thats why there probably will never be a one-source-fix-all solution, unless one manage to run a fusion reactor of any water source...

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (1)

Temkin (112574) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242306)

No. The discharge of every coastal sewage plant and every storm drain is your fuel. Then there's these things called "rivers". I understand something like 0.01% of all water on the planet flows through them every year. As small as that sounds, it's a substantial number in terms of solar kJ's sequestered in its distillation.

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (1)

tehdaemon (753808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242314)

The idea is to use fresh water in a river just before it flows into the ocean. No fresh water lost that wasn't already lost.

T

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (5, Funny)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242336)

Although I like this idea. Won't it just deplete our supply of fresh water?

The power plant is at the ocean next to a river.

The river's fresh water runs into the ocean as it is. That's just how nature works. All this is doing is diverting some of the water into the power plant and mixing the water there. What they're doing is siphoning off gravity and osmotic pressure, and THOSE are the vital resources that will be depleted instead.

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (5, Funny)

Fex303 (557896) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242588)

What they're doing is siphoning off gravity and osmotic pressure, and THOSE are the vital resources that will be depleted instead.

Typical short-sightedness. We're going to use up all our gravity, and then we'll float off into space! We've got to shut down this plant fast!

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242606)

What they're doing is siphoning off gravity and osmotic pressure, and THOSE are the vital resources that will be depleted instead.

What ever will we do if we deplete the world's supply of gravity. Sure, this scheme might solve problems now, but in thirty years our children will have to deal with global floating.

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (1)

paul248 (536459) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243172)

our children will have to deal with global floating.

By the time global floating becomes a problem, we won't exactly have a globe anymore.

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (1)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243356)

What they're doing is siphoning off gravity and osmotic pressure, and THOSE are the vital resources that will be depleted instead.

Gravity is a vital resource we can deplete it? Ummmm, nope. See: physics.

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (2, Funny)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242382)

Don't worry, we'll use the power produced to run desalination plants.

What? thermody-whati-namics?

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242458)

Although I like this idea. Won't it just deplete our supply of fresh water?

Mmm, nope, don't think so. This isn't a case where you're diverting fresh water to the task. You're simply borrowing the energy those rivers would normally dissipate when they hit the sea anyway.

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (1)

matzahboy (1656011) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242822)

I do not think that these plants would redirect a fresh water supply to feed into a salt water one. It said that these plants could be placed at the mouth of a river (where the fresh water mixes with the salt water, regardless of whether the plant exists).

Re:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (2, Insightful)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242852)

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:Deplete our Fresh Water supply? (1)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243250)

Mod parent up as funny. He's clearly joking, right?

Desalination (4, Funny)

JuzzFunky (796384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242192)

I wonder if you could use the energy to power a desalination plant and then use the fresh water to power the.. hang on... I've gone cross eyed...

Re:Desalination (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242286)

I would advise against that kind of project. You'd get arrested for breaking the laws of thermodynamics.

Re:Desalination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242362)

except that solar energy (from evaporation that causes rain that refills fresh fresh water lakes/rivers) is an external power source. so a circular system would be no different then solar cells. may be inefficient but you wouldnt' have to cover large amounts of land either with silicon so who knows.

as always, almost all power we get cames from our sun, this is just another method to do so.

Re:Desalination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242380)

the sun evaporates the salt water, which rains freshwater on the riverbeds. you build these powerplants on the deltas, where the fresh water mixes with the salt water.

Re:Desalination (1)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242812)

Actually, that could work, not in the perpetual energy sense obviously, but certainly you could take the concentrated salt product from your desalinization process and recoup some of the energy by using it for osmotic fuel in this process.

Re:Desalination (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243076)

Actually, that could work, not in the perpetual energy sense obviously, but certainly you could take the concentrated salt product from your desalinization process and recoup some of the energy by using it for osmotic fuel in this process.

No. Well, you could, but it'd be really stupid. You could save even more energy by NOT doing that. Doing what you suggest would simply consume more energy and/or cut down on the amount of fresh water and salt you're producing (requiring more energy be spent to make up for the loss than was gained by doing so).

Yes, but does it run under Ninnle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242200)

Ninnle Linux for the win!

Thats a lot of tea... (1)

bintech (37449) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242270)

The very first power generated by the prototype was used to boil a kettle to provide the guests with hot water for refreshments at the opening ceremony. The prototype has a limited production capacity and will be used primarily for testing and data validation.

"Ok Everyone listen up, we gotta test this thing for the next 2 years, so start drinking up"

Re:Thats a lot of tea... (1)

gijoel (628142) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242514)

But it can also take you anywhere in the universe. [wikipedia.org] Personally I think they're getting their value for money.

Wikipedia to the rescue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242324)

"Osmotic power is synonymous to butt power. The more one farts, the more power is generated."

Somehow, I don't think that is 100% correct.

Osmosis? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242546)

I though this was a way to get smarter by sleeping on books.... huh

haha seriously... why hasn't this method been talked about in the top 5 ish ideas of renewable energy sources?

Re:Osmosis? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242612)

For one thing, it's only practical at the mouth of a river, which is fine for New Orleans or Boston, but not much help in Detroit or Las Vegas.

Some numbers... I think it might work! (4, Informative)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242708)

I was skeptical of the numbers, so I looked around to figure out how much energy we're talking about here. This link [tripod.com] discussing desalinization is pretty useful... what we're talking about here is a desalinization plant run in reverse.

The short answer: 0.66 kcal (2760 joules) per liter of salt water converted to fresh water, so you'd get the same order of magnitude of energy *back* with an osmosis plant. The Mississippi river flow rate is 17 million liters per second at New Orleans, so the maximum possible energy output is 47 GW!

I don't see any obvious efficiency-loss factors here: it should be possible to do this pretty efficiently.

Another way of looking at the problem: the osmotic pressure difference between fresh water and seawater is 28 bar, which is equivalent to 280 meters of hydraulic head. That's roughly the same pressure gradient as is found across the Hoover Dam.

Now, the technical challenge of building miles and miles of carefully-folded osmotic membrane, and keeping it clean, is a bit daunting. But in theory, it should work!

Re:Some numbers... I think it might work! (2, Funny)

lastgoodnickname (1438821) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242882)

Oh, well, if the theory is sound, then I don't see the problem with a large government/private sector cross over project in the New Orleans area.

Re:Some numbers... I think it might work! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242902)

so you're going to take fresh water "A" and salt water "A", turn it into brackish water "A", use the resulting energy to take salt water "B" and turn it into fresh water "B" and other remains? ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!!!

Re:Some numbers... I think it might work! (2, Interesting)

FlyingGuy (989135) | more than 4 years ago | (#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>

Re:Some numbers... I think it might work! (3, Interesting)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Some numbers... I think it might work! (1)

plague911 (1292006) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243342)

Filtering water is something man has been doing for hundreds of years. Id wager we have some good technology for that already. Even still if what you say is true the particulate will likely cause a drop in efficiency which will hurt profit margins but considering the efficiency of the system as is, is 0% any improvement will be significant.

Re:Some numbers... I think it might work! (2, Insightful)

plague911 (1292006) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Oh man, Starcraft?! (3, Funny)

InvisibleClergy (1430277) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242714)

Oh wait, Statkraft? Gosh, I thought they were talking about something important for a moment there.

Re:Oh man, Starcraft?! (4, Funny)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242784)

Your Osmotic Power Plant requires more vespene gas.

Wow (1)

lastgoodnickname (1438821) | more than 4 years ago | (#30242862)

First he wins Dancing With the Stars, now he's going to power a whole country!?!? Is there no end to this guy's abilities?

ROFL! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242938)

Okay, that's funny right there. Why do I never have mod points when I see something like this that deserves them?

Re:ROFL! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30243020)

cuz u keep posting as Anonymous Coward?

Slartibartfast was a genius (3, Funny)

mwkohout (46192) | more than 4 years ago | (#30243098)

This is all being built next to Oslo's Fjords....

No wonder Slartibartfast won an award for them!

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