Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) was conceived by French engineer Jacques D’Arsonval in 1881. However, at the time of this writing, the Hawaii Natural Energy Laboratory is home to the only experimental OTEC plant operating on earth. . OTEC is a potential alternative energy source that needs to be funded and explored more than it currently exists. The major obstacle to overcoming OTEC implementation on a broad and practically useful level is cost. It is difficult to bring costs down to a reasonable level because of the processes currently used to drive OTEC. Ocean thermal energy will be very clean burning and does not add pollutants to the air. However, due to the current need to be regulated with our current technology, OTEC plants will have the capacity to disrupt and possibly damage the local environment.
There are three types of OTEC.
“OTEC Closed Cycle” uses a low boiling point liquid such as, for example, propane to act as an intermediate fluid. The OTEC plant pumps warm seawater into the reaction chamber and boils the intermediate liquid. This produces an intermediate liquid vapor which drives the engine’s turbine, thereby generating electricity. The steam is then cooled by being put into cold sea water.
“Open Cycle OTEC” is not much different from closed cycle, except in Open Cycle there is no intermediate fluid. Seawater itself is the driving force for the turbine engine in this OTEC format. Warm ocean water found at sea level turns into low-pressure steam under the confines of a vacuum. Low pressure steam is released in the focus area and has the power to drive a turbine. To cool the steam and make desalinated water for human consumption, colder deeper sea water is added to the steam after generating enough electricity.
“Hybrid Cycle OTEC” is really just a theory for now. It seeks to illustrate how we can make the most of the thermal energy of seawater. Actually there are two sub theories of Hybrid Cycling theory. The first involves using a closed cycle to generate electricity. This electricity is in turn used to create the vacuum environment required for an open cycle. The second component is the integration of two open cycles so that twice the amount of desalination, drinking water is made with only one open cycle.
In addition to being used to generate electricity, closed-cycle OTEC plants can be used to process chemicals. OTEC generators, both open cycle and closed cycle types, can also be used to pump cold deep sea water which can then be used for cooling and air conditioning. Furthermore, during the moderation period when seawater surrounds the factory, the attached one can be used for marine aquaculture and aquaculture projects such as fish farming. Obviously there are quite a number of products and services that we can derive from these alternative energy sources.