Friday, 27 November 2009

Groundbreaking Norwegian Power Plant Generates Electricity From Water
November 25, 2009

New alternative energy plant in Norway is the first of its kind, but could be a common alternative energy in the future. The world's first osmotic power plant opened in Norway on Tuesday. The plant uses a combination of freshwater, seawater and a special membrane to generate emission-free electricity. The test plant, which currently only produces enough electricity to power a coffee maker, is a test run of the technology and will be used to develop larger, more efficient versions, Reuters reports.

The prototype plant, on the Oslo fjord south of Oslo, uses osmosis to draw freshwater across a membrane and toward the seawater side, creating pressure that drives a turbine and produces electricity. The plant has about 2,000 m² of membrane. "While salt might not save the world alone, we believe osmotic power will be an interesting part of the renewable energy mix of the future," said Baard Mikkelsen, chief executive of Statkraft, the federally-owned utility company that built and operates the prototype plant.

Statkraft plans to begin building commercial osmotic power plants by 2015. Osmotic power can be established anywhere clean freshwater runs into the sea. Since it is not affected by weather fluctuations like wind or solar energy, it is seen as a more reliable alternative energy source. The utility hopes to improve the efficiency of the membrane from its current 1 watt per m² now to about 5 watts, which should make osmotic power costs comparable to those from other renewable sources.

Future full-scale plants producing 25 MWs of electricity-enough to power 30,000 European households-would be the size of a football stadium with roughly five million m² of membrane, according to Statkraft. The utility estimates that osmotic power in Norway will eventually be able to generate 10% of the country's power needs. Europe's total osmotic power potential is estimated at about five% of total consumption, which could help the continent reach renewable energy goals that curb emissions of heat-trapping gases and limit global warming.