Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Power Plants Closer to Commercialization

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Written By: Emma Websdale

Leading U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin joins Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation in moving Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) power plants closer to full commercialization after signing a contract with China-based Reignwood Group to design a 10-megawatt (MW) plant.
1352824172The 10-MW ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) plant between Lockheed Martin and a Thai-Chinese property developer comes on the heels of Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation’s June 2013 announcement of its agreement with DCNS. The agreement with the 13,000 employee Paris-based international Naval Defense contractor and ocean energy innovator will jointly develop and build OTEC and Sea Water Air-Conditioning (SWAC) systems worldwide, including the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Following Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation’s prior compacts to move forward with commercial OTEC and SWAC plants in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Lockheed Martin’s China-based OTEC plant will also be of commercial scale, utilizing the differences in ocean temperature to produce renewable energy.

Under the initial three and a half year contract, Lockheed Martin will provide project management, design, and systems engineering services. The 10-MW, closed-system OTEC plant will generate energy for a new Asian resort by using warm surface waters to convert ammonia into gas to power a turbine. Meanwhile, deep cold water will convert the steam back into liquid, thus providing baseload of energy.

“The ocean holds enormous potential for terrawatts of clean, baseload energy”, said Dan Heller, vice president of new ventures for Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training. “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.” 

The announcement is encouraging news to other OTEC developers, as the new contract will help bring full commercialization of OTEC plants one-step closer, enabling the public and investors to witness their full benefits including clean energy and carbon dioxide reductions.

“Baseload 24/7 renewable energy is only a small part of what OTEC can offer”, said Jeremy P. Feakins, Group Executive Chairman for Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation. “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.”

Commenting on the Reignwood announcement, Feakins added, “We are very pleased that Lockheed Martin is pursuing a 10-MW OTEC plant, since the fact that companies like Lockheed are investing heavily in the development of OTEC demonstrates that it is a commercially viable technology whose time has come.”

Data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the United States Department of Energy website has indicated that at least 68 countries and 29 territories around the globe are favorable candidates for OTEC plants. Furthermore,  a recent study by the U.S. Federal Agency NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) concluded that a 10MW OTEC plant is now feasible, using “current design, manufacturing, deployment techniques and materials.”

A further cause for optimism about OTEC commercialization occurred at this week’s Ocean Energy Europe annual conference. There, Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker announced that the Technology Strategy Board would invest £7 million in offshore renewable infrastructure in an attempt to drive down the sector’s cost of electricity generation.