Water, Water, Water

Not Quite Everywhere

Most of our planet is covered with water, but using it to create useable energy is not as simple as it might seem. If there is a river, you can put in a dam and use the backed up water to drive a turbine which will generate electricity. If the river is near a hill, you can create a pond on top of the hill and when you have power you don't need, pump water into the pond. Then, when you need extra power let the water flow down the hill through a turbine to generate power.

If you are by the ocean, it is possible to use tidal flows through narrow channels or use the action of waves. On a grand scale one could create very large passive pumps to draw water from the depths to the surface and use the temperature difference. Or one could create huge funnels and tap the slow-moving open ocean currents. If you are near a river flowing into the ocean, you can use the difference in the salt concentration between seawater and river water. Two practical methods for this are reverse electrodialysis (RED) and pressure retarded osmosis (PRO). Both processes rely on osmosis with membranes.

Of course, there are lots of places far from the ocean, where the rivers are just too small, or where water is scarce and not really useable for power generation. Even being near a large lake doesn't really help for generating power unless you happen to be where the incoming or outgoing rivers are located.

  Example of a power dam - could be from a dam or from a reservoir (Courtesy Jani Brumat)

Example of a power dam - could be from a dam or from a reservoir (Courtesy Jani Brumat)

  Consistent waves are the best source of power (Courtesy Mathias Kurmann)

Consistent waves are the best source of power (Courtesy Mathias Kurmann)

  Ocean Tunnels - a concept by Patrick McNulty to be lined up across the Gulf Stream

Ocean Tunnels - a concept by Patrick McNulty to be lined up across the Gulf Stream

  Courtesy of Mahi Jagadeesh.

Courtesy of Mahi Jagadeesh.