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Saturday, January 28, 2012

CAN OTEC MITIGATE GLOBAL WARMING?

The answer, of course, is yes.  But, will ocean thermal energy conversion ever become cost competitive to make a difference?  I'm hopeful, but not sure, especially as not one megawatt is currently being generated.  

My 30July2008 posting provided the history of OTEC.  A more complete treatment is provided by Luis Vega of the University of Hawaii.  You can actually buy a book Andrew Trenka and I wrote (left) for the United Nations, published by John Wiley & Sons in 1996.  I just noticed used copies are on sale for $25 at Amazon.com.  However, the price is $500 at Barnes & Noble, and also from Alibris.

About 120 years ago, Jacques d'Arsonval first proposed tapping the temperature differential between the surface and deep ocean waters to produce electricity.  Nearly a century later I helped draft the first OTEC legislation when I worked for the U.S. Senate.  We indicated in the bill signed into law by President Jimmy Carter that there would be 10,000 MW of OTEC by 1999 (twenty years later).  Again, the total production rate today is zero.

However, I can report that there is today considerable activity and interest, with Lockheed Martin, Sea Solar Power, OTEC International (left, 100 MW OTEC for Honolulu?), Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation, Xenesys, and others progressing well.  A summit of interest was held at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority this past September, drawing the involvement of all the above companies.

But enough for the subject at large.  This posting has to do specifically with OTEC and global climate change remediation.  Clearly, if OTEC power becomes commercialized, this sustainable energy source will begin to replace hydrocarbon combustion, so that is a start.  Perhaps the carbon balance can be improved through the process of combining the deep ocean water nutrients (which includes carbon dioxide) to grow marine algae.  That is another plus.  Some day environmental credits can be earned.

Jim Baird has suggested a counter-current heat transfer mechanism, which he also calls the Global Warming Mitigation Method.  You can visit his site and communicate with him.

While I'm at this, let me introduce Dominic Michaelis' Energy Island:
While OTEC is part of this development, you will note that a range of solar and wind options is also involved.

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