Blue energy, energy from water. ‘It exists, but it is not possible’ was the belief in scientific circles when Jan Post started his PhD research in 2005. He got the idea working and now there are numerous applications.
Jan Post was the first PhD candidate at the Wetsus water institute in 2009. His interest in blue energy started a few years earlier. “I worked at engineering firm Royal HaskoningDHV, I didn’t know Wetsus yet.”
As a civil engineer, he became fascinated by a wild idea in Israel. “They had the plan there to fill the Dead Sea, which is very salty, with less salty water from the Red Sea. Due to the difference in height, but even more so due to the difference in salt concentrations, they could gain an enormous amount of energy. A great idea.”
His employer gave him five days to explore the idea. “I spent four years doing that.” He went back to university to research the phenomenon exhaustively. “There was the theory, but very little was actually measured.”
Post built a lab setup and started measuring. The membranes (filters) did what they were supposed to do. “We turned out to actually be able to generate 85 percent of what was theoretically calculated.”
His findings gained respect from colleagues, and then his ‘ paper’ was named the best in technology in the United States in 2010, it was the start of a rain of awards.
In the Netherlands, entrepreneur Pieter Hack (REDstack) started working on the idea on the Afsluitdijk, where a test installation appeared in 2013. It wouldn’t be long before half of the North would be running on blue energy.
Reality turned out to be tougher than tough. The pilot installation is still in full development. There were many setbacks, “but REDstack perseveres and the goal is slowly coming into view.”
According to Post, the experiments on the Afsluitdijk are invaluable. “This is the most extreme scenario blue energy. The project pushes us to the limit. Thanks to the Afsluitdijk we can put the technology behind us blue energy can also be applied successfully in other areas.”
Little is left of the initial scientific skepticism. Peers are impressed. REDstack recently won the prestigious Aquatech Innovation Award with its technology at the Aquatech trade fair in Amsterdam.
Jan Post and Simon Grasman will give a lecture on the acclaimed technology and five new applications next Tuesday, February 6 (see box below). New methods for recovering nutrients from wastewater, capturing CO2 in water, making industrial water suitable for reuse, extraction of lithium and energy storage in water are discussed. The latter is the best known, the company Aquabattery is working on it. “They are about to break through.”
Stack factory in Friesland
The road to new markets is in many cases a complicated one. A recurring challenge is the construction of stacks , the filter modules that mix or separate the different components of fresh and salt water. These stacks play the leading role in each of the new applications.
Until now, they have been made manually in the Netherlands. But REDstack aims for industrial production. The company wants to build an assembly factory in Friesland for stacks with different applications. A serious part of the financing for the factory has already been secured, he reports from India, where he is to talk to the energy minister about the opportunities of blue energy.
The importance of that factory can hardly be overestimated, according to Post: “With stacks you can enter markets worldwide that you are not yet aware of.”
Dan: “It happens to us every day that we think ‘damn’, we can do this with stacks and that. Soon we will have an umbrella of companies that would not exist without the blue energy project on the Afsluitdijk.”
Jan Post and Simon Grasman
On Tuesday, February 6, Jan Post and Simon Grasman will give the first of six lectures that the Leeuwarder Courant and water technology institute Wetsus are organizing together. Civil engineer and environmental technologist Post leads various research groups at Wetsus. His goal is to make innovations commercially and socially relevant. Chemical technologist Grasman is responsible for technology development at REDstack, the company behind the pilot installation for Blue Energy on the Afsluitdijk.
Location: Wetsus building, Oostergoweg 9 in Leeuwarden.
Entry: 7:30 PM
Start: 8 p.m
- February 13: Elmar Fuchs about living water and other special phenomena
- February 27: Chris Schott and Lucia Hernandez on the untapped potential of human manure
- March 5: Jolanda Theeuwen and Ties van der Hoeven about cloud factories and the lush desert
- March 12: Doekle Yntema about inspection methods and smart data for pure and safe water
- March 19: Roel Meulepas and Gerrit Veenendaal about a solution to the medicine residue problem in sewage water
You can register now www.wetsus.nl/registration-winter-watertech-weeks