Membrane hunting in San Diego
Better membranes separating salt water and fresh water are the key to making osmotic power profitable. Statkraft continues its hunt at the membrane conference 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.
Looking for partners
Statkraft now wants to connect with partners who can participate in the development of such membranes. Statkraft has 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 July 11-12.
“We want 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.
Last time a similar conference was held, researchers were the main focus group to enlist more heads in the work to make the membranes more efficient. This time, it is important to show those who are already producing membranes for desalination of drinking water that osmotic power is a new application for their membranes, and that there is a need for further development. In addition, it is important to show other power producers that osmotic power has a major potential.
The conference is held as a prelude to the annual conference held by AMTA, the US membrane industry association. More than 800 delegates will participate in the AMTA conference, and many of them are also relevant participants in the pre-conference.
“We will meet players such as General Electric (GE), Hydranatutics, Dow and Toray here,” says Skilhagen. “It is very important to engage in a dialogue with these players, and it is also important for us to demonstrate that we are the forefront of the development of osmotic power.”