Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) – More Proof That OTEC Technology Works!

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Regular readers to my blog know that I am Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation (OTE).  OTE is a USA based Company with a focus on deep-water hydrothermal technologies.

OTE’s focus is on countries devastated by a lack of affordable power and, more importantly, fresh, clean water for drinking and other uses. 780 million people lack access to an improved water source, according to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program. That’s approximately three times the size of the USA.

OTE offers exciting technologies and proven solutions that could bring improved conditions to parts of our world devastated by a shortage of water and high-energy costs.  And, as a concerned environmentalist, I was thrilled at the prospect of becoming involved with a technology that was environmentally benign. (Read: no noxious chemicals spewed into the atmosphere or damage to ecosystems).

shutterstock_267294020Even though I usually look at entrepreneurial opportunities from a humanitarian perspective, I nonetheless look for attractive returns – no matter how hard the journey might be to get there. 

OTE is an environmentally focused project developer, using the skills and many years experience of its Marine Scientists, Oceanographers and Engineers. They design commercial scale, cost-effective, and scalable Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) and Seawater Air Conditioning systems  with a business model to finance, build, own and operate those systems. That model alone sets OTE apart from companies who want to charge developing countries millions of dollars for energy plants. OTE brings along the project financing to pay for all of the construction of the plant and then sells the water and electricity to the customer – usually a power utility or Government.

I believe OTE could be the first company in the world to design and build a commercial grade OTEC power plant that generates enough electricity revenue to pay off the construction loan, support operations and maintenance and produce a handsome profit.  

There have been several Research and Development OTEC plants around the world. And for many years, my company has been involved in OTEC research. Our Head of OTEC Programs was formerly the Director of Ocean Engineering at Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Recently, there was some very good news for those of us in the OTEC business.  

Last month, the Hawaii-based firm Makai Ocean Engineering will once again pursue additional research activities at the OTEC plant at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. The OTEC plant is the largest experimental ocean thermal energy plant in the world.

The Hawaii OTEC plant utilizes the ocean’s warm surface water and cold deep water to generate 100 kilowatts of renewable energy that is available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. That’s enough clean, sustainable energy to power approximately 120 homes. A small step maybe, but proving once again that OTEC can produce electrical power from the sea without the use of fossil fuels.

Ocean thermal energy conversion, or OTEC, is an approach to energy generation that harnesses the temperature difference between surface and deep ocean water.

Warm ocean surface water is fed into a heat exchanger, where it vaporizes a low-boiling-point liquid such as ammonia. This vapor – or gas - drives a turbine to create electricity. Cold ocean water is then used to condense the ammonia back into liquid to complete the loop. (This process is called the Rankine cycle, and it’s the underpinning of the steam engine!). You can read more about how OTEC works on  OTE’s company website.

One key advantage that OTEC has over other renewables, such as solar and wind, is it would provide “firm power generation,” meaning it could run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and therefore would not require diesel generators to be constantly spinning as a backup.

In addition to the Hawaii research efforts, many of us in the OTEC business are moving forward with several exciting projects.

Last year, OTE and French Naval Defense Contractor DCNS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Legislature of the United States Virgin Islands to move forward with a study to evaluate the feasibility and potential benefits to the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) of installing on-shore Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) renewable energy power plants and Seawater Air Conditioning (SWAC) facilities. This announcement comes on the heels of June 2013 headlines that OTE and DCNS, a world leader in naval defense and an innovative player in energy, signed a MOU to jointly develop and build OTEC and SWAC systems globally in a variety of selected markets, including USVI.

And, in an earlier blog post I described how an EcoVillage, powered by an ocean-driven OTEC plant (no fossil fuels allowed) would finally prove once and for all that OTEC can provide communities with affordable power and water for drinking, fish farming and agriculture. 

Imagine the relief OTEC will provide to countries and communities devastated by a lack of water! According to Water.Org, the water crisis is the #1 global risk based on impact to society (as a measure of devastation), and the #8 global risk based on likelihood (likelihood of occurring within 10 years), as first reported by the World Economic Forum, January 2015.

At the point OTEC is proven at the commercial level, the world is changed forever. And along with it, the lives of millions of people in developing countries.  

We are very nearly there.


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