Jul 17 2012

OTEC Makes Waves

Published by under Student blog entries

Pictured is a Lockheed-Martin OTEC designed device. Lockheed-Martin is a leading OTEC device developer.

Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) was first utilized in Cuban waters in the 1930’s, the beginning operational system generating 22 kilowatts of electricity with just 1 to 3% thermal efficiency. OTEC technology has significantly improved in the 80+ years since, with current designs near maximum efficiency of 6-7% (“Technical readiness”, n.d.) . The greatest potential for OTEC systems is in areas with the high range in water temperature, making the tropics a modern hot spot for refined systems to take to the water.

One such site is the Bahamas. The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation   (OTE Corporation), a Pennsylvania based renewable energy company in hopes of being the first to supply ocean-based energy for the general public (Ferris, 2012). The agreement includes the construction of two 10-megawatt commercial scale OTEC plants of original design. OTEC has agreed to pay entirely for the plant construction with BEC footing the purchase of the energy generated (Todd, 2011). The end result: cleaner, reliable and budget friendly power. However as with any innovation in development, the true capability and impact of the plant will only be known upon it’s completion.

With OTEC systems re-gaining momentum, economists and scientists alike have to ask what exactly prompted plant development after about 30 years of little growth. With the improved efficiency, cost competition is shifting in OTEC’s favor. Generating electricity in island locations off traditional methods comes with a high cost tropical nations are looking to part from (Handwerk, 2012). As renewable energy begins to see the funds it has long needed for research and development, OTEC systems can be predicted to see continued improvement. Unlike solar and wind harvested power, ocean thermal energy operates 24 hours a day without any fossil fuel input required.

In the case of the Bahamas, OTE Corporation predicts the installed pipes will have the ability to harvest largely more cold seawater than needed for power alone (Ferris, 2012). The company believes the excess water could be used in desalination systems and specialized agriculture to produce commodities unable to prosper in the warm environment without the incoming cold water stream.  Jeremy Feakins, OTE Coroporation’s CEO and Chairman, has commented that the development of the plant will be a long term project. Feakins wants to ensure that no mistakes will be made and that the plant is developed to be a “shining example” of OTEC facilities capabilities (Todd, 2011). Though no official date has been disclosed, it is rumored the plant is intended to be developed by 2015 (Hahn, 2012).

OTE Corporation has stated that additional projects are in line for the Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar. Other companies also are beginning development in tropical regions, such as Bluerise in Curacuo and the French military contractor DCNS (formerly Direction Technique des Constructions Navales) on the island of Martinique, the Reunion Island and Tahiti (Ferris, 2012).

References

Ferris, D. (2012, March 31). Market for deep ocean energy heats up – Forbes. Information for the World’s Business Leaders – Forbes.com. Retrieved July 15, 2012, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidferris/2012/03/31/market-for-deep-ocean-energy-starts-to-heat-up/

Hahn, E. (2012, January 31). Ocean facilities engineering: OTEC power for the Bahamas by 2015?. Ocean Facilities Engineering. Retrieved July 15, 2012, from http://oceanfacilities.blogspot.com/2012/01/otec-power-for-bahamas-by-2015.html

Handwerk, B. (2012, June 22). Is the clock ticking towards U.S. clean tech crash? News Watch. News Watch – National Geographic News Blog. Retrieved July 15, 2012, from http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/06/22/is-the-clock-ticking-towards-u-s-clean-tech-crash/

Technical readiness of ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). (n.d.). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  National Ocean Service  Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. Retrieved July 14, 2012, from http://www.crrc.unh.edu/workshops/otec_technology_09/otec1_final_report_full.

Todd, J. (2011, September 22). BEC signs “historical” renewable energy deal. The Nassau Guardian. Retrieved July 15, 2012, from http://www.thenassauguardian.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13021&Itemid=2

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One Response to “OTEC Makes Waves”

  1.   Aubree Kotopouloson 29 Nov 2013 at 9:03 pm

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