What is Osmotic Power?

Posted on November 24, 2009. Filed under: Events | Tags: , , |

Green Inc. reported today on today’s debut of an osmotic power pilot project in Norway. That’s cool, but what is osmotic power? Here is how Statkraft, the company that developed the Norwegian project explains it:

“Freshwater and saltwater are channeled into separate chambers, separated by an artificial membrane. The salt molecules in the seawater draw the freshwater through the membrane, causing the pressure on the seawater side to increase. This pressure is equivalent to a water column of 120 meters or, in other words, quite a significant waterfall. This pressure can be used in a turbine to make electricity.”

According to the company, this type of power generation has the potential to provide half of Europe’s power supply as a baseload (continuously available) power source. The development of osmotic power generation has been slow since the 1970s, but now with improvements in membrane technology, experts think it has the potential to take off. Osmotic power plants can be installed wherever salt water and freshwater are in the same vicinity- for example where a river meets the ocean or next to an existing desalination plant.

Was this coffee made by power from the osmotic power plant?

The Norwegian pilot, though a significant accomplishment for those involved, only contributes 4 kw of power to the grid. As the Green Inc. article points out, that’s enough to run a coffee grinder. Still, Eric Stilihagen, the VP of osmotic power at Statkraft is insistent in the potential of this technology:

“We really need to increase the speed to bring this technology into the market…We should do this much faster than we did with solar power and wind power.”



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