Europe’s largest energy company Statkraft has unveiled the world’s first prototype osmotic power plant that harnesses energy from freshwater and seawater to produce clean electricity.

Osmotic energy is produced due to the difference in pressure when freshwater and seawater meet on either side of a separating membrane.

The pressure exerted on seawater as freshwater is drawn towards it, is used to drive the turbine, thus producing electricity.

Unlike other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, osmotic power produces a stable electricity flow regardless of weather conditions, according to Statkraft.

The prototype plant has a limited production capacity and is intended primarily for testing and development purposes.

Using the prototype, the firm aims to create the capability to build a commercially viable osmotic power plant in a few years.

Statkraft head Baard Mikkelsen told new agency AFP that osmotic power will be an important part of the global energy portfolio.

“While salt might not save the world alone, we believe osmotic power will be an important part of the global energy portfolio,” Mikkelsen said.

Statkraft, together with other Norwegian organisations are investing about $26.8m on the new technology.

The worldwide potential of osmotic energy is estimated at 1,700 terrawatt hours (TWh) per year.