Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Norway to build world's first osmotic power plant

Norway plans to build the world's first osmotic power plant, a renewable energy source that uses the pressure built up between sea water and fresh water, Norwegian energy group Statkraft said Wednesday.

Osmotic power is based on the natural process of osmosis.

In an osmotic power plant, sea water and fresh water are separated by a membrane. The sea water draws the fresh water through the membrane, thereby increasing the pressure on the sea
water side. The increased pressure is used to produce power with a turbine, Statkraft said.

"Osmotic power is a very-promising technology," the head of Statkraft, Baard Mikkelsen, said in a statement.

"It is clean and [greenhous gas] emission-free, and could become competitive within a few years," he said.

According to Statkraft, the technology could produce some-1,600 terawatt hours (TWh) worldwide. That is equivalent to "13 times the annual hydroelectric production of Norway," which covers almost all of its energy needs with hydro power.

In Europe, the potential is estimated at around 200 TWh, Statkraft said.

The prototype of the osmotic power plant is being built in Hurum in southeastern Norway, and could produce between 2 kilowatt and 4 kilowatt hours.

Construction is scheduled to be completed next year.

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