The Dutch King, Willem-Alexander was called upon: the opening of the first Blue Energy central in the Netherlands. This is regarded as an imporant step towards more sustainable energy provision. In Belgium too, significant investment is being made in water power, with the port city of Oostende leading the way.
The concept of Blue Energy is based on the different concentrations of loaded salt particles. When fresh and salt meet, energy can be extracted through a membrane. The membrane acts as a filter: when fresh water flows through a membrane into salt water, the dissolved substances remain behind as salt. As a result, pressure builds up that can be used to power a turbine. Subsequently, that turbine generates electricity. What remains is brackish water that flows into the sea.
The Dutch Blue Energy power plant was developed by the Wetsus research institute and the University of Twente, in partnership with membrane supplier FujiFilm Europe. Currently, a 3 year pilot is being carried out. If it is successful, the project will be scaled up and 500,000 homes provided with electricity. In that case, new power plants will be built and as many as 80% of Dutch electricity needs met.
In Oostende, the Flemish government, knowledge centres, universities and companies are working together on Blue Energy, with the emphasis on wind, wave and tidal energy. This is part of the campaign Factories for the Future, which supports sustainable initiatives. Knowledge development and sharing is paramount.
Blue Energy offers many benefits: it is CO2 free, makes clever use of the natural conditions (tides), and is excellently scalable. But until then, there is still a lot of research to be done. The sustainable potential is enormous, so it’s a matter of perseverance. After salt there’s fresh…
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