The Scoop December 2015 - Page 10

OSMOTIC POWER

It’s well established that you can generate electricity from the difference in salinity between river water and the seawater it’s flowing into, and a prototype osmotic power plant is already running in Norway. But an MIT team think they can make it cost-effective for commercial energy production. Murray explains: “The team reckon they have found a way to slash the cost of the semi-permeable membranes that sit between the salty and non-salty water.”

PASSIVEHAUS PRINCIPLES

Modern building technologies can radically – and I do mean radically – reduce your energy bills. The average American household now spends more than $1803 USD on energy per year. But with “Passivhaus” building, that figure could be reduced to around $180USD - and no, that is not a typo! You read correctly, it’s already happening in lots of places worldwide: “Around 30,000 properties have been built or renovated to Passivhaus standards, which combine ultra-efficient insulation and mechanical ventilation and heat recovery systems to pretty much negate the need for conventional heating,” says Murray. It’s not cheap but would save money over the lifetime of the building, as well as making a huge dent in our carbon footprint, he says. “We could live in zero-emission modern homes and free ourselves from sky-high energy bills. Thousands of people already are.”

CARBON CAPTURE

As with so many of these items, it’s already been shown that the technology works – the question is how to make the economics work as well. “One answer is to use the captured carbon to flush out yet more oil, which doesn’t really help with the whole saving-the-world thing,” says Murray. “But an environmentally sustainable alternative could be to use the captured carbon dioxide to make something, and a number of research projects are seeking to do just that.” For instance, there is a Norwegian project which hopes to use carbon dioxide, photosynthesis, and latent heat from the power plant to make algae-based fish food. Others, such as