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Wednesday, December 18, 2013



Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, or OTEC, while potentially the ideal cornucopia of sustainable products for humanity, has had a very difficult beginning.  The biggest problem is that you can't build a commercially viable small one, unlike wind energy conversion devices and solar photovoltaic rooftop installations.  The first successful OTEC facility for electricity only will cost more than a billion dollars.  The pathway to success will involve co-products such as potable water, air-conditioning, aquaculture, biopharmaceuticals and the like to support 1-10 MW systems built for resorts and government facilities.  To the right above was the first net positive OTEC system built off the Big Island of Hawaii by Lockheed in 1979.

This is not a new technology, for Jacques Arsene d'Arsonval (left) of France first proposed the concept in 1881.  A half century later, his student, Georges Claude (right), built a 22kW system, on Cuba, but it did not attain net positive and was destroyed by a storm.  He tried again on a ship in 1935, but this facility, too, did not survive the weather.  The French continued in 1956 with a 3 MW OTEC plant on the Ivory Coast, but never completed it because oil became too accessibly cheap.

The American father and son team of J. Hilbert and James Anderson patented their closed cycle design in 1967, but they, and their follow-on companies, now known as OTEC International, never did actually build a real system.  Negotiations are continuing for a 1MW test operation at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority and a 100 MW floating OTEC plantship for Honolulu.  OI's CEO is Eileen O'Rourke (right above).

When Lockheed succeeded in 1979 I happened to have started working in the office of U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga that summer, and was asked to draft the first legislation on OTEC which became law.  In 1981 Tokyo Electric Power Company led a consortium on Nauru Island, testing a 120 kW system, which was wiped out by a hurricane.  When I returned to Hawaii from Congress I formed a team for the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research, which twenty years ago (1993) succeeded in building a 210 kW  (left above) plant at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority.  The only operating OTEC system today produces 50 kW of electricity on Kumejima, Okinawa:


1.  The above Kumejima OTEC facility received its 1000th visitor.

2.  Stephen Oney (left, hmm, I think I was on his PhD committee at the University of Hawaii), Timothy Hogan and John Steinbeck published a paper on "The Potential Impacts of OTEC Intakes on Aquatic Organisms at an OTEC Site under Development on Kauai, HI."  Comments can be read at this OTEC site.  I long expected Senator Dan Inouye to provide funds for this facility at Port Allen, but his passing away probably ended this prospect.

3.  The most prominent OTEC engineering company in the world, Makai Ocean Engineering, is seeking an experienced ocean/mechanical engineer.  Hmm, that was back in May.  Maybe they're looking for another one.

4.  Here is a November 2013 update from OTEC International about their discussions in Hawaii, Cayman Islands and the Bahamas.

5.  Who's involved with OTEC?  Two gatherings with details:
6.  A headline worth noting:

The November 2013 article reports on the Lockheed Martin and Reignwood Group agreement to build a 10 MW commercial operation for an Asian resort.  The fact that Secretary of State John Kerry  was at the signing seems significant.  Said Dan Heller, VP of new ventures for LM:

Capturing this energy through a system like OTEC means we have the opportunity to produce reliable and sustainable power, supporting global security, a strong economic future and climate protection for future generations.

Also featured was Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion's agreement with DCNS (French naval defense contractor with 13,000 employees) and commercial facilities in the Caribbean, East Africa and the Pacific Rim.  They have developed innovative financing mechanisms.  Said Jeremy Feakins, Group Executive Chairman:

Baseload 24/7 renewable energy is only a small part of what OTEC can offer.  OTEC can also provide a better quality of life to millions of people by its three key outputs:  clean energy, fresh drinking water and sustainable food production through aquaculture.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy indicates that at least 68 countries and 29 territories around the globe are favorable candidates for OTEC.

Okay, honestly, if you are into stock market investments, if the Federal Reserve suddenly announces the beginning of tapering, surely, there should be a panic and the Dow Jones Industrial Average would crash.  Well, exactly the opposite thing happened today.  While the Dow dawdled at no movement throughout the day, when Ben Bernanke, on his final official bit of action, indicated that bond purchases would be reduced beginning in January...the stock market surged, up 293 to 16,168, an ALL-TIME HIGH!

Why?  I guess everyone was relieved that it wasn't as bad as feared and that the interest rate would be kept low.

Tropical Cyclone Amara, now at 90 MPH, will strengthen into a Category 3 hurricane, and head for Mauritius and Le Reunion Island.


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