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The first osmotic power plant in the Rhône Delta

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  • Project driver : Compagnie Nationale du Rhône (CNR) and Sweetch-Energy, a start-up specialized in osmotic energy
  • Project duration: Signature of a partnership in December 2021 for an implementation at the end of 2023 (two years)
  • CostThe total budget for the implementation of the demonstrator is 2,700 k euros. Sweet Energy has benefited from aids and subsidies, notably from the French public Investment Bank and the French Environmental Agency.


Genesis of the project

This innovation emerges from a double observation: by 2050, the world’s demand for electricity will have doubled, while the need to reduce fossil fuel consumption is becoming more and more necessary.

Osmotic energy, based on the difference in salinity between seawater and fresh water, could meet this challenge. This well-known energy is already used in power plants in Sicily and Norway, but with a yield too low to be economically viable.

Sweetch Energy developed the INOD® technology in 2017. It increases the amount of exploitable energy thanks to recent advances in nanotechnology and eco-materials. The partnership with CNR would enable the first French osmotic power plant to be built in the Rhone delta, thanks to the implementation of a pilot project incorporating this technology.

What is osmotic energy? This energy derives from the difference in salinity between fresh and salt water. As they are separated by a semi-permeable membrane, fresh water migrates by osmosis towards salt water. This phenomenon increases the pressure of salt water, powering a turbine and creating electricity. Complementary to hydroelectricity, the production of osmotic energy is predictable and continuous.


Strategy and Objectives

The project starts with modeling and technical tests performed at CACOH, the CNR integrated laboratory. Tests will also be conducted to identify the best location in the Rhone Delta. Finally, the facility will begin producing 100% renewable electricity by 2023.

Innovative character of the projet

A ground-breaking technology

INOD® technology is based on the generation of nanometric membranes specially designed to harness osmotic energy, manufactured with environmentally friendly biosourced materials. Developed by Sweetch Energy, it benefits from advances in the French public research, especially the work conducted under the direction of Professor Lydéric Bocquet (CNRS / Ecole normale supérieure).



This technology can be viably reused in sites containing:

  • A volume of fresh water with a salt content of less than 1g/L
  • A volume of salt water with a salt content of more than 27g/L.

Ecological benefits

Unlike photovoltaic panels and wind power, osmotic energy is a non-intermittent energy, which allows continuous production, regardless of hydrometeorological conditions.


Results and Perspectives

The amount of untapped osmotic energy is colossal: 30,000 TWh are released each year by deltas and estuaries worldwide, a capacity greater than the world’s electricity demand.

The multiplication of production sites could thus allow a significant increase in the share of decarbonized electricity in the world, thanks to 100% natural and renewable energy. It would eventually allow the share of renewable energies in the future global electricity mix to rise from 50% to more than 65%.

#Rivers #Fleuves #Rivières #energy #osmotic #technology #innovation

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Images: CNR / Sweetch Energy

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