24 November 2009 – Norwegian utility Statkraft has inaugurated the world’s first osmotic power prototype on the banks of the Oslo fjord, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of the capital.
The prototype generates power by exploiting the energy available when fresh water and seawater are mixed.
When freshwater and seawater meet on either side of a membrane – a thin layer that retains salt but lets water pass – freshwater is drawn towards the seawater side. The flow puts pressure on the seawater side, and that pressure can be used to drive a turbine, producing electricity.
“I want to congratulate Statkraft with the opening of the osmotic power prototype. Innovative energy solutions are essential to meet the climate challenges, and I am pleased that a Norwegian company is a front runner in developing these technologies,” said Terje Riis-Johansen, Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy.
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 1600-1700 TWh per annum, equivalent to 50 per cent of the EU’s total power production.
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.