What is OTEC?
OTEC is an acronym that stands for Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, which is energy that is generated using the gradient (or difference in temperature) between the ocean’s depths and its surface.
There are three types of OTEC, one of them being the open cycle system. The Ocean Energy Council explains how it works as such:
“Open-cycle systems convert warm surface waters into steam in a partial vacuum, and then use this steam to drive a turbine connected to an electrical generator. Cold water piped up from deep below the ocean’s surface condenses the steam. Unlike the initial ocean water, the condensed steam is desalinated (free of salt) and may be used for drinking or irrigation”. (2)
The oceans cover 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, making them the largest repository of unconverted energy in the world. Using the natural ocean temperature variations, either in a coastal plant or using plantships, energy can be generated and used to power homes and businesses.
Imagine harnessing the ocean’s power!
“On an average day, 60 million square kilometers (23 million square miles) of tropical seas absorb an amount of solar radiation equal in heat content to about 250 billion barrels of oil. If less than one-tenth of one percent of this stored solar energy could be converted into electric power, it would supply more than 20 times the total amount of electricity consumed in the United States on any given day,” reports the Solar Energy Research Institute’s paper Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion: An Overview, published in November 1989. (1)
OTEC plants can: generate clean, renewable electricity, desalinate water and create a lively mariculture where the plants are installed along the coast.
According to the Ocean Energy Council’s website, “The largest (OTEC facility) so far is near Japan, and it can create 100 kilowatts of electricity. Another small-scale OTEC is off the coast of Hawaii, producing 50 kilowatts of electricity.” (2)
Not only is this form of technology available at this time (it’s not science fiction), there are several sites worldwide capable of utilizing this clean, renewable energy. The initial costs to install these plants are enormous (as are installing coal power plants or nuclear power plants), so governments usually step in to subsidize these types of projects, which would create new jobs along coastal areas and infuse our overloaded energy grid with new sources of power.
Water shortages may very well be the cause of the next great World (Water) War, or it can be the wave of future energy generation.
(1) Solar Energy Research Institute. (November 1989). Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion: An Overview. SERI/SP-220-3024. Golden, CO: Solar Energy Research Institute; 36 pp.