Mixing of fresh (river) water and salty water (seawater or saline brine) in a control fashion would produces an electrical energy known as salinity gradient energy (SGE). Two main conversion technologies of SGE are membrane-based processes; pressure retarded osmosis (PRO) and reverse electrodialysis (RED). In PRO, semipermeable membranes placed between the two streams of solutions allow the transport of water from low-pressure diluted solution to high-pressure concentrated solution. RED requires two alternating semipermeable membranes that allow the diffusion of the ions but not the flow of H2O. Lifetime and power density of the semipermeable membrane are two main factors affecting on deployment of PRO and RED. Semipermeable membranes with lifetime greater than 10 years and power density higher than 5 W/m2 would lead to faster development of this conversion technology.
An exergy analysis of an SGE system of sea-river can be applied to calculate the maximum potential power for electricity generation. Seawater is taken as reference environment (global dead state) for calculating the exergy of water since the seawater is the final reservoir. Once the fresh water is mixed with water of the sea or lake it becomes unuseful for human, agricultural or industrial uses loses all its exergy. Aqueous sodium chloride solution model is used in this study to calculate the thermodynamic properties of seawater. This model does not consider seawater as an ideal model and provides accurate thermodynamics properties of sodium chloride solution. As a case study, exergy calculation of Iran’s Urmia Lake-GadarChay River system. The chemical exergy analysis considers sodium chloride (NaCl) as main salt in the water of Lake Urmia. The sodium chloride concentration is more than 200 g/L in recent years. Based on the exergy results the potential power of this system is 329 MW. This results indicates a high potential for constructing power plant for salinity gradient energy conversion.