After ten years of research and development, Norwegian utility Statkraft is to build the world’s first prototype osmotic power plant. The company has announced it is to invest NOK100 million in the development of the technology and believes it has the potential to supply ten per cent of Norway’s power generation mix.

Osmotic power uses the pressure differences created by the process of osmosis. In an osmotic power plant, sea water and fresh water are separated by a membrane. The higher salt concentration on the sea water side draws the fresh water through the membrane, thereby increasing the pressure on that side. The pressure differential is used to produce power.
The construction of a prototype power plant will give Statkraft a better understanding of the challenges involved in developing the technology, says the company.

Statkraft will build the prototype at Södra Cell Tofte’s Hurum facility in Buskerud, Norway, a location that will give the plant the required supply of both fresh and sea water. The plant is expected to generate between 2 and 4 kW of energy and is should be operational by the end of 2008.

Statkraft’s research work in this field is supported by the Research Council of Norway. It believes that the global technical potential for osmotic power production is around 1600 TWh annually, including 200 TWh in Europe and 12 TWh in Norway.

“We take the task of providing pure energy seriously, and osmotic power is a very promising technology in which we are global leaders. It is clean and emission-free, and could become competitive within a few years,” said Statkraft’s CEO, Bård Mikkelsen.