Oslo, Norway [RenewableEnergyWorld.com] Statkraft this week opened the world’s first osmotic prototype plant. The plant generates power by exploiting the energy available when fresh water and seawater are mixed.
“This new technology generates electricity simply by mixing water. New solutions to meet the climate challenges might be closer than we expect, which makes me confident that the future looks bright,” said Bård Mikkelsen, Statkraft’s CEO and president.
Statkraft said that it has been researching osmotic power since 1997 and has developed this prototype in cooperation with R&D organizations from many countries.
Energy is produced through the natural phenomenon of osmosis, defined as being the transport of water through a semi-permeable membrane. When fresh water meets salt water, for instance where a river runs into the sea, enormous amounts of energy are released. This energy can be utilized for the generation of power through osmosis.
At the osmotic power plant, fresh water and salt water are guided into separate chambers, divided by an artificial membrane. The salt molecules in the sea water pulls the freshwater through the membrane, increasing the pressure on the sea water side. The pressure equals that of a a 120 meter water column and be utilized in a power generating turbine.
The prototype will have a limited production capacity and is intended primarily for testing and development purposes. The aim is to be capable of constructing a commercial osmotic power plant within a few years’ time.
The global potential of osmotic power is estimated to be 1,600-1,700 terrawatt-hours per year, which is equivalent to 50 percent of the EU’s total power production.