EUROPE’S largest renewable energies company, Statkraft of Norway, has commissioned the world’s first osmotic power prototype.
The device generates power by exploiting the energy available when fresh water and seawater are mixed.
Osmosis is the diffusion of water through a semi-permeable membrane. More specifically, it is the movement of water across a semi-permeable membrane from an area of high water potential (low solute concentration – in this case, river water) to an area of low water potential (high solute concentration – the sea).
Osmotic power is a renewable and emissions-free energy source that Statkraft has been researching for 10 years.
The company suggests that it may be capable of making a substantial global contribution to eco-friendly power production.
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 TWh (terawatt hours per annum). Put another way, that equates to 50% of the EU’s total power production at present.
Osmotic power plants can, in principle, be located wherever fresh water runs into the sea; they produce no noise or polluting emissions and they can be integrated into existing industrial zones – for example, in the basements of industrial buildings.
Statkraft has been researching osmotic power since 1997 and has developed this prototype in co-operation with R&D organisations from many countries. The project has attracted a lot of international interest.