World's first osmotic power plant opens in Norway

(26 Nov 2009)

The Norwegian energy giant Statkraft formally opened a prototype plant capable of generating zero-carbon energy through the power of osmosis.The plant at Tofte, outside Oslo, will be used for further testing and development research with a view to launching a commercial-scale demonstration plant within the next few years.

The prototype power plant employs a semi-permeable membrane that uses the same principle of osmosis that governs how leaves absorb moisture. The membrane separates fresh water provided by a nearby river from saltwater from the sea. The saltwater molecules in the sea water pull the fresh water through the membrane, increasing the pressure on the sea water side to a level where it is high enough to drive a turbine to generate power.

The company said that in principle the technology could be deployed at any location where fresh water flows into the sea and as a result has the potential to generate between 1,600TWh and 1,700TWh per annum, equivalent to 50 per cent of the EU's total power production.

It further added that the approach could have an edge over some other forms of renewable energy as it is quiet, produces zero-carbon power and has minimal environmental impacts.The Statkraft chief executive and president, said the technology was a genuine world first, adding that the plant represented an important step towards the wider adoption of osmotic power.

The company stated  that depending on test results from the prototype plant, Statkraft was aiming to have a 2MW-3MW scale plant in place within two to three years. Their ambition is to build a larger-scale 25MW plant with a view to having a commercially viable technology capable of competing with other renewable energy sources from 2015.

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