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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Osmotic Power

Alternate forms of energy have been a hot topic for the past four decades. There is a new kid on the block: Osmotic Power. Osmotic power works by putting sea water next to fresh water separated by a membrane thin enough to allow small fresh-water molecules through but not the larger sea-water molecules laden with salt. If a concentrated solution is in close proximity to a less concentrated solution the liquids will naturally mingle to reach the same level of dilution. The pressure of the fresh water driving through the membrane to dilute the sea water drives a turbine that generates electricity.

A Norwegian renewable energy company, Statkraft, has built a prototype osmotic power plant. It is located on the Oslo fiord. At first it will produce about 4 kw of power, enough to heat an electric kettle. By 2015 the target is 25 Mw.

As I read an article about osmotic power by Mark Gregory of the BBC (Nov. 24/09), Mr. Gregory states that to produce this kind of power would simply require a coastal location. See http://www.google.ca/search?q=Osmotic+power&hl=en&rls=com.microsoft:en-US&prmd=ivns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=YKa4TYbhPIShtweh2dneBA&ved=0CD4QsAQ&biw=762&bih=376 for pictures explaining this kind of power.

In a related article by Kate Galbraith of the New York Times (Nov. 24, 2009), she contends that the theory for this kind of power has been around since the 1970s. She goes on to say that studies for this type of power are currently underway at the University of Kentucky, Virginia Tech and the University of Texas. I researched the science departments of all three of these institutions and found no evidence of studies being done there.

Is osmotic power the new energy alternative for the future, or is it just a hoax?

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