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Friday, July 25, 2014


The simple answer is YES, OTEC, similar to all renewable resources, can reduce global warming.  But enhance the environment?  

Every kilowatt-hour of electricity of generated in itself avoids the need to burn any carbon-emitting fossil fuel.  However, it is possible that the process of ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) provides additional mechanisms to improve conditions.  It is thus entirely possible that OTEC could actually ENHANCE the environment.  To the left is a current OTEC related experiment located at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA).

Let me first summarize a 1997 paper Stan Dunn and I presented in Singapore entitled ARTIFICIAL UPWELLING FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ENHANCEMENT:
  • An open-ocean artificial upwelled system, however, shows promise for both providing revenues and, possibly, positively impacting the environment. Properly managed, the high-nutrient deep waters can induce growth in the photic zone, on balance, although possibly with the need to add iron, uptaking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Much of the CO2 formed will sink to the bottom of the ocean, where much of it will remain trapped for a long, long period. The carbonate cycle slowly transforms the gas back into the atmosphere, but those bound in silicate compounds remain in place for many millennia (Berner and Lasaga, 1989).

Above is an OTEC facility on Kumejima, Okinawa, actually producing OTEC electricity today.  To the right is the open cycle OTEC power plant built by the Pacific International Center for High Technology at NELHA, borrowed from the website of Ocean Thermal Development Corporation, one of the more progressive companies in this business.
    Victor Phillips
  • Two potential oceanic mechanisms to help mitigate global warming are (Phillips, et al, 1991):  
    • enhanced carbon dioxide uptake via nutrient subsidy to marine algae and subsequent deposition in marine sediments and
    • enhanced dimethyl sulfide production via marine algae to increase cloud formation and albedo.
(I couldn't find that 1991 article, but might add that I searched Google and found Victor Phillips, who is now Professor and Director of Global Environmental Management Center at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.  I haven't seen him since he worked for me a 23 years ago...and he still looks about the same.  You can contact him for details.)

The paper Stan Dunn, other colleagues and I wrote (incidentally, elimination of hurricane formation was another enhancive potential, which was detailed in that publication, but left out in this discussion today) went on to conclude that:

An international partnership of industry, government, and academia to design, build and operate a VLFS powered by OTEC and producing the range of co-products, while providing environmental benefits, would be a magnificent undertaking for the new millennium (Takahashi, 1996). As developed by a 1992 workshop in Hawaii of 50 participants representing six nations (Takahashi and Vadus, 1992), the Blue Revolution plantship would be a 1 hectare (100,000 square feet) grazing structure estimated to cost $500 million for full operation early in the 21st Century to:

serve as an incubator for new marine industries,
develop the package of integrated products, and
test the upwelling concept.

While $500 million might seem staggeringly high, one might consider that this sum represents one tenth of 1% the cost of the 1991 Gulf War and one-fifth the current value of each B-1 bomber (left). Reports also indicate that the U.S. space station would have cost $50 billion and the Mars Project about $500 billion. Now that dreams have come back down to earth, this pioneering venture to develop next generation marine products for Humanity while, possibly, enhancing the environment, seems like a wise bargain.

Okay, that was nearly two decades ago.  What about today?  Well, Blue Revolution Hawaii has proposed the Pacific International Ocean Station (PIOS) to accomplish all of the immediate above.  In addition, I am part of a discussion group that began with an article by Jim Baird entitled:

     Carbon Sequestering Energy Production

It was about a year ago that I featured Jim in


Basically, an additional step is inserted to remediate global warming, with hydrogen as a by-product.    This would mean additional costs, of course, with potentially significant benefits.  At the risk of terrorizing my readers, here is a schematic of the mechanism:

The discussion has evolved into a call of action to secure developmental funds to actually build and operate this system.  Who knows, depending on how financial support materializes, Jim's concept might someday sit on a PIOS platform.

There are four tropical disturbances headed for Hawaii:

None should approach hurricane strength.  Which leads to the question of the day.  What was unusual about the hurricane season in the Atlantic a century ago, 1914?  ZERO HURRICANES.



Jim Baird said...

Thanks Pat for your input.

Jim Baird


Well, your vision appears to be materializing into something real. Keep at it!


Trying the grandchildren by ordeal! said...

I intend to keep at it Pat and thank you and many others for the free education I have received over the past number of years.