Better membranes separating salt water and fresh water are the key to making osmotic power profitable. Norway's energy provider Statkraft went membrane hunting in San Diego this summer.
Last year, Statkraft opened the world’s first osmotic power plant at Tofte outside Oslo. The plant is a prototype, and can for now only produce small amounts of electricity, just about enough to power a coffee machine.
However, the potential is much greater, as osmotic power could supply up to 1700 TWh globally per year, half the current EU power production.
But achieving large-scale commercial production requires more efficient membranes separating saltwater and fresh water. Current membranes have an effect of less than 1 W per square metre and membranes with an effect of 2-3 W/m2 are planned for the Tofte plant, but the goal is to achieve 5W/m2.
Statkraft now wants to connect with partners who can participate in the development of such membranes. Statkraft therefore joined forces with the American Membrane Technology Association (AMTA) and the companies Toray Membrane and Energy Recovery Inc. to organise a second osmotic power membrane conference in San Diego last week.
”We wanted to use this occasion to get in contact with manufacturers and decision-makers who can help speed up the development of new membranes,” says Stein Erik Skilhagen, adding that the establishment of a supplier industry is decisive for the development of osmotic power.