Amidst news of massive solar and wind power plants comes word of a small but significant achievement–the world’s first osmotic power plant. Statkraft’s $7 million plant, located in Tofte, Norway, only produces enough energy to run a coffee maker, but it’s the first pilot plant to use the power produced when salt water and fresh water combine in a polymer membrane.
The power production process works with help from osmosis, which causes freshwater to be drawn towards seawater when placed in a membrane. Since the membrane only allows freshwater in, pressure is generated on the seawater side. The pressure is strong enough to drive a turbine.
Statkraft’s osmotic power process has been around since the 1970s, but until now, membrane technology was too expensive and inefficient to be worth it. Now that the technology is beginning to mature, Statkraft believes it could be viable anywhere that a river meets or comes close to the ocean.
Eventually, the company believes osmotic power will have the potential to power half of the EU. But before that can happen, Statkraft has to build a full-scale plant. That project is expected to be completed in 2015, but only if osmotic membrane technology improves enough to make it economically viable. So for now, we might want to focus on those jumbo wind, solar, and geothermal plants.
[Via UK Daily Mail]