Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is a marine renewable energy technology that harnesses the solar energy absorbed by the oceans. OTEC generates electricity by exchanging heat with the warm water from the ocean surface and with the cold water from the deep ocean. The exchanged heat drives a Rankine Cycle, which converts it to electricity. The technology is viable primarily in equatorial areas where the year-round temperature differential is at least 20 degrees Celsius.
One of the main advantages when comparing OTEC to other renewables, such as wind and solar energy, is the fact that OTEC is a baseload source, available day and night. This is a big advantage for tropical islands that typically have a small, isolated, electric grids, not capable of handling a large share of intermittent power.
The potential of OTEC is vast. One square meter of Ocean surface area on average receives about 175 watts of solar irradiation. The total amount of globally received solar power is therefore about 90 petawatts. This is over 6,000 times the total global energy usage. If we exploit just of fraction of that energy, we have enough to power the world.
Today’s advanced offshore industry provides sufficient know-how for deployment and operation in the harsh oceanic environment. Offering a continuous and environmentally clean operation, OTEC is an attractive alternative form of energy.
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