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Saturday, July 22, 2017

THE CURRENT STATUS OF OTEC

I regularly bring you up to date on ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC).  Today, I will quickly summarize this technology again, by sending you to who I today consider to be among the three most knowledgeable experts on the subject.  Who are the other two?  Well....  However, as half of you who are reading this posting are new to this blog site, and no doubt know zero about OTEC, I will begin by providing some background.

The beginning was all French, for the concept was suggested by Jules Verne in 1870 with his Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  In any case, Jacques-Arsene d'Arsonval (left), a noted electrophysiologist, in 1881 first proposed tapping the thermal energy of the ocean.  His student, Georges Claude (right), in 1930, built a 60 kW OTEC facility powered by cold water from a pipe of 1.6 meters diameter in the Bay of Matanzas off Cuba.  What an ordeal, and he did actually produce 22 kW of electricity, but failed to reach net positive.  Here is his article from that year:

Claude again tried a few years later off Brazil, but ran into weather problems.  Rather than list the full history of OTEC, let me send you to my Huffington Post article of almost a decade ago entitled, The Coming of OTEC.   I mentioned that Claude, who also invented the neon tube, was during World War II sentenced to life in prison for being a Nazi collaborator.  He was released in 1950, as sympathy for his work with OTEC.
The next real attempt was Mini-OTEC by Lockheed off Keyhole Point, Hawaii in 1979.  They produced 50 kW of net OTEC power on a Navy boat borrowed by U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga.  I happened to be working for him in DC when this happened in Hawaii, so he asked me to draft the first OTEC bill, which became law in 1980.

In the early '80's, Fumio Ito of Tokyo Electric Power Company led a Japanese effort with a 110 kW plant at the coastline of Nauru.  It is said that they attained a net closed cycle OTEC power of 31.4 kW.  Unfortunately, a hurricane wiped them out.  Here is a video of their adventure.

More than thirty years ago I made a special trip to Berkeley, California to visit a two-man ocean technology company.  I talked Luis Vega and Gerard Nihous into joining me at the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research, and they, with others I recruited, built a 210 kW open cycle OTEC facility at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in the early 1990's.  Not sure if this one really reached net positive, but we did also produce some freshwater.  Anyway, here is a video of Luis articulating on OTEC.  Another video the Seasteading Institute released of my talk on the subject at their San Francisco gathering in 2012.  They are moving on with their Tahiti Floating City Project.

A dozen years ago I was asked to visit Le Reunion and Mauritius to interest them on OTEC.  The former, especially, took some steps, as it remains a French state.  DCNS, a French organization, is moving forward with various partnerships.  A small group  from Le Reunion visited me to discuss OTEC.  I usually take these groups to Orchids for a Diamond Head background.  After all, that is the backdrop for this blog site.

  Six years ago I posted:


Soon thereafter:


There has been a series of Okinawa-Hawaii symposia on OTEC, which catalyzed the construction of 100 kW gross electricity experiments at Kumejima (left) and Keahole Point (right).  These are today the primary physical evidence of OTEC activity.

Yes, sad, considering that the OTEC Act in 1980 suggested that there would be 10,000 MW (10,000,000 kW) of OTEC by 1999.  The problem is that the first large OTEC system will cost so much that there is no current financial instrument, nor risk-averse organization, to do so.

But we do not give up so easily.  Japan is continuing through the leadership of Saga University and Xenesys.  Here I am with Yasu Ikegami, probably the top professor of OTEC today, and Mac Takahashi, formerly of Tokyo University, who, like me, is more in a retirement mode.

We certainly can't write off Lockheed Martin's collaboration with the Reignwood Group of China.  With 19 OTEC patents, LM has designed a 10 MW plant, but the partnership is yet to announce exactly where it will be built.

In the meantime, Honolulu is pressing forth with a seawater air conditioning project, which keeps fading from finish.  According to Luis Vega, we do have OTEC promise:


Frankly, nothing much has happened in more than two decades.  And there has been some carping.  They have a good point, sort of like the $150 billion International Space Station which will not create a successful company when it crashes back to Earth in a few years.

Blue Revolution Hawaii seeks just one percent of that cost, only $1.5 billion, to design, build and operate the Pacific International Ocean Station.  All we lack is an enlightened billionaire seeking a grand legacy.

All the above brings me to today, for I was sent this interview with Ted Johnson, formerly head of renewable energy at Lockheed Martin, and now with Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion.  There is no one today more involved with the commercialization of this technology.  I thought Ted was just interviewed, but I just now noticed that this happened more than two years ago.  Hey, Ted, please send me your latest thoughts, then I'll update the actual status.

To the right is a photo of us at Vintage Cave, and to the left a lunch (yes, again, Diamond Head) Ted and I had with Jeremy Feakins, chairman and CEO of Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation.  Seems as if my efforts these days focus more on fine cuisine rather than the arduous task of doing anything real.  Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion is, however, actively moving forward, and I wish them another oil shock skyrocketing oil up to $120/barrel to make them more competitive.  That or a 5 cents/pound carbon dioxide credit to fund global warming remediation.

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Speaking of the sea around us, there are now eight ocean storms in the Pacific:



Hurricane Francesca will considerable weaken and ease north of Hawaii early next week, but Tropical Storm Noru is beginning to organize to the east of Japan and will soon become a typhoon:



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