The Netherlands is famous for its dams, dikes and floodgates that were installed across the country to bring an end to the potentially devastating floods that could wipe out thousands of humans and animal lives and reek damage on the buildings and infrastructures of the nation. The 75-year-old ‘Afsluitdijk’, built by Cornelus Lely, stretches from North Holland to Friesland that was installed following a huge tidal wage struck The Netherlands in 1916, and is being looked at as a site for generating renewable energy from saltwater.
The process, which would be a kind of reverse electrodialysis, works by extracting the energy that is generated when saltwater and fresh water mix. Scientists have been aware since the 1950s that electricity could be obtained by means of this process, but nobody had ever ascertained how efficient or viable this process could actually be on a large scale. Until now.
Bert Hamelers, an environmental engineer from the Sub-Department of Environmental Technology at Wageningen University in The Netherlands, together with Jan Post, a civil engineer and PhD student of Hemelers, would be working in conjunction with Leeuwarden research institute, Wetsus, to further develop knowledge and technologies around energy generation from saltwater/freshwater mixing.
One of the major attractions to the technology is not only the fact that it is renewable and clean, but it estimated that over 80% of the energy can be recovered. Compare this to the efficiency of coal, where between 38 and 50% of the energy released by the burning of this dirty, depleting fossil fuel is captured, and it doesn’t take a genious to work out how much more beneficial this technology could be across the world. Especially when the process occurs naturally at river estuaries across the globe, it seems that this opportunity to harvest clean, green, renewable energy is there for the taking.