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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

OTEC and the PACIFIC INTERNATIONAL OCEAN STATION

When I first arrived to work for U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga in 1979, Lockheed had just succeeded in attaining net positive on Mini-OTEC for the first time ever off the coast of the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii on the Big Island.  I was asked to draft the first ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) bill, which became law the following year.

In ways that I could not then imagine, those events catalyzed a life-long crusade for the Blue Revolution.  I went on to, with Paul Yuen and a lot of others, create the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research, which in the early 1990's at Keahole Point (off which Mini-OTEC produced 50 kW of net closed-cycle OTEC electricity) built the first open-cycle OTEC power plant, rated at 210 kW.

Interestingly enough, in hiring the staff to accomplish this task, three of them eventually joined the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute.  At around that period, cold fusion became an item, and I brought on board another researcher into HNEI.

The sons of three of them nearly two decades later became Stanford University students at the same time, and will no doubt go on to greater glory into the future.  Cold fusion will be covered in  a subsequent energy posting.

Okay, how does OTEC work?  I won't  try to explain it here, but, should you need a tutorial, do click on:


To summarize, in OTEC we have an energy source that will be available as long as the Sun shines.  If global warming melts all the ice at the North and South Poles, that would change the long-term dynamics, but this technology should last even in those circumstances for centuries.

OTEC was invented by the French, and proved to be workable by the USA and Japan (Nauru in 1981), the head of their effort, a close friend of mine, Fumio Ito (person on the left) of Tokyo Electric Power.  A hurricane destroyed their facility, and a click on his name reveals a second set of tragedies.

So if Jules Verne first mentioned the OTEC concept in 1870 and Jacques Arsene d'Arsonval was the first to provide details in 1881, why have we waited nearly a century and a half to finally move forward?  For one, any size to provide confidence to financiers has been too expensive to attempt.  You can do this for only millions as an experiment, but a true test could cost billions.  Five years ago China and Lockheed Martin signed a partnership to build an OTEC system for a planned resort community.  However, the world still awaits movement.

Why do I think OTEC remains attractive?  Wind power and solar energy only provide electricity.  With this marine proposition there is potential for a cornucopia of co-products:
Blue Revolution Hawaii (BRH) has proposed the Pacific International Ocean Station (PIOS) to initiate the above effort.  In my presentation to the World Aquaculture Society next week in Las Vegas I have retained that acronym as the title of my talk.  However, the board member suggesting that combination dropped out, so for the future I might consider using Pacific Ocean International Station, or POI Station, for this has a special local flavor, as poi is the staple food of Hawaiians.  

Well, today, maybe only a few actually enjoy this strange-looking sour mush, and, further, tourists universally hate it, but it is distinctive.  Maybe I'll find an artist to design the station to look like a taro root, from which comes this purple paste.

There could well be a more important reason for POI Station over PIOS.  It will take a billionaire to make this happen, and there happens to be one living in Hawaii dedicated to improve the world:  Pierre Omidyar.  Thus, the Pierre Omidyar International Station, or POI Station.  According to Forbes, he is worth $10.6 billion.

Larry Ellison, who owns the island of Lanai, is much richer ($59.3 billion), and LEI Station also has the right ring.  My focus on future funding for the Blue Revolution is two postings away, and could well become the most important blog I will ever compose.  Tomorrow, the Story of the Blue Revolution.

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Tropical Cyclone Gita remains potent at 125 MPH, but seems headed sufficiently south of Fiji:

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