Why Puerto Rico Needs Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC)

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by Jeremy P. Feakins


Puerto Rico has the best location, natural resources, and market conditions to build and operate the 1st OTEC commercial plant in the world TODAY”.

Manual A.J. Laboy, PE, MBA, CSP- Secretary of Economic Development and Commerce of Puerto Rico

According to the 2016 U.S. Census, Puerto Rico 3.4 million citizens live in Puerto Rico, and nearly half are living below the poverty line. The poverty level, as defined by the Health and Human Services in 2017, was $20,420 a year for a family of three, or $24,600 for a family of four; the median income of Puerto Rican households is just over $19,000 per year.

In 2018, this is a terrible situation for any country, but the fact Puerto Rico is a United States territory makes it even worse. As reported in the New York Times, only 54 percent of Americans knew that Puerto Ricans are US Citizens. Understanding this, we should not be surprised that Puerto Rico attracts far less public or political attention when compared to states in the US mainland.

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) can help solve many economic issues facing Puerto Rico by providing renewable energy from the sea. OTEC is a game-changing technology that leverages the temperature difference in the ocean between cold deep water and warm surface water to generate unlimited energy without the use of fossil fuels. It boasts a competitive advantage over alternative sources of electricity production regarding accessibility, predictability, affordability, and emissions. An important by-product is the production of water for drinking, agriculture, and economic development.

According to a recent report by the Puerto Rico Department of Economic Development and Commerce, 57% of Puerto Rico parents do not have job security.

Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria in September 2017, exacerbating the hardships with the majority of residents who are struggling to meet basic needs. The hurricane wreaked havoc throughout Puerto Rico, with more than 4,600 people reported as either missing or dead.

By providing cost-competitive, unlimited renewable energy and fresh water, OTEC could encourage new businesses and opportunities for job creation, such as bottled water plants, fish farming operations, agriculture projects, and the like. OTEC can provide less expensive power without the use of fossil fuels, unlimited desalinated water, and cooling for large buildings and structures like airports, hospitals and the like. It can create economic opportunities and job creation. Such a concept has already been well-proven at the Natural Energy Laboratory in Hawaii, where 30 businesses have been established, using the desalinated seawater brought up to land by large OTEC pipes.

OTEC is the renewable energy solution for Puerto Rico. The Territory offers superb conditions for generating ocean thermal power from the ocean.

As they rebuild from the effects of the Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico would be well served to introduce OTEC and can take advantage of renewable energy, fresh water and economic development opportunities.

We hope Puerto Rico will continue to look favorably on implementing OTEC.