AbstractA pressure‐retarded osmosis (PRO) power generation system is a hydroelectric power system which utilizes permeation flow through a semipermeable membrane. Permeation flow is generated by the potential energy of the salinity difference between sea water and fresh water. Since the cost of the membrane is high, the permeation performance of the membrane must be improved in order to realize PRO systems. We have investigated reverse osmosis (RO) membrane products as semipermeable membranes and measured the permeation volume of a few products. The generation power per unit membrane area calculated from the permeation volume is about 0.62 W/m2. But as a result of our improvements (greater salt water volume, spacers for fresh water channel with the function of discharging concentrated salinity, extralow‐pressure type of membrane, washing the support layer of membrane when the generation power falls by half) the generated power may be 2.43 W/m2. Then the power system cost would be about 4.1 million yen/kW. In addition, if the support layer of the membrane is made thinner and a PRO system is applied to equipment where pumping power for another purpose is available (wastewater treatment plants located at the seaside, thermal and nuclear power plants, sea water desalination plants), the generated power may be increased. These improvements may enable PRO systems to be realized at a cost close to that of photovoltaic power systems. 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Electr Eng Jpn, 173(2): 8–20, 2010; Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience. wiley.com). DOI 10.1002/eej.21000

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