Written By: Emma Websdale
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is more than just a technology that produces clean energy. With OTEC, the goal is to create a sustainable future using the world’s most abundant resource – our oceans. It’s also about believing in a cleaner, safer future. OTEC investment offers reduced carbon emissions, lighter environmental impact and less dependence on fossil fuels. That’s why our 300+ accredited investors spur OTEC on, and that’s why they care.
Take a look at their top five reasons for investing in OTEC:
1) OTEC is 24/7: More Competitive Than Other Renewables
Due to the unlimited availability of the ocean’s thermal resource –the fuel that powers OTEC –this technology is built to produce clean energy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This provides a great advantage over intermittent (albeit important) renewable technologies such as solar and wind.
OTEC also can shrug off the storage problems that are often associated with clean energy. Due to its ability to produce a range of secondary services, the surplus energy generated by an OTEC plant can be diverted to power desalination plants (removing salt and other minerals to produce drinking water). This flexibility ensures that OTEC-produced energy never goes to waste. It also makes OTEC more dependable as an investment and means greater financial returns for investors, as OTEC’s clean energy and water are in constant supply.
Another major competitive benefit of OTEC is its range of secondary services. Besides producing electricity and fresh drinking water, OTEC can support agriculture and aquaculture industries, reducing local demand on water supplies. It can also slash costs of air conditioning in tropical regions.
2) OTEC’s Location is Global
Globally, over a hundred prospective project locations have been listed for OTEC in the tropics and subtropics. These sites can help satisfy energy demands where approximately 3 billion people live. OTEC’s global capacity is reflected by data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the United States Department of Energy (DOE), which lists at least 68 countries and 29 territories as prospective candidates for OTEC plants. Furthermore, a study performed by Dunbar identified 98 territories with access to the OTEC thermal resource (a temperature differential between warm surface water and deep cold ocean water of at least 20°C), making both floating and land-based plants possible in vast areas of the globe.
Over the last two decades, OTEC’s electricity pricing has become increasingly competitive, particularly in tropical island countries where imported fossil fuels have raised the price of electricity to the range of $0.30-$0.60/kWh. Its potential for producing potable water improves the economic attractiveness of this technology.
3) OTEC Offers Vast Humanitarian Benefits
By using the temperature differential between warm ocean surface water and cold deep water as a renewable energy source, OTEC can generate two of humanity’s most fundamental needs—clean drinking water and renewable baseload (24/7) energy. Each OTEC plant is capable of producing voluminous amounts of drinkable water (a 10-MW OTEC plant can produce as much as 75 million liters of fresh drinking water a day). Thus, the technology holds great potential for meeting global domestic and agricultural freshwater demands both now and in the future.
OTEC’s unique symbiosis between clean baseload renewable energy and potable water production is a natural fit. The combination addresses existing global factors that could precipitate a humanitarian crisis: the growing global need for potable water, the lack of available freshwater sources, the increased concentration of populations in coastal regions, and rising energy prices.
4) OTEC’s Environmental Benefits
More than 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, and over 80% of the sun’s energy is stored within surface waters -the equivalent of 4,000 times the energy used in the world per day. In just one 24-hour period, tropical ocean waters absorb solar radiation equal to the energy produced by 250 billion barrels of oil.
OTEC’s ability to help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels –one of the largest human-induced contributors to climate change – is enormous. Just one 10-MW OTEC plant has been estimated to provide reliable clean energy for approximately 10,000 people and to replace the burning of 50,000 barrels of oil and release of 80,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year into the atmosphere. OTEC plants therefore may play a huge role in helping global communities fight pollution-related climate change.
OTEC can also use deep water as a cooling agent for environmentally friendly air conditioning, a system known as Seawater Air Conditioning (SWAC). To replace traditional electric chillers and chemicals for cooling buildings, OTEC plants use cold water from deep oceans and lakes. Their installation into airports, medical centers and holiday resorts can reduce electricity usage by up to 90% compared to conventional systems, offering enormous reductions in carbon emissions.
5) OTEC Enhances International Security and Reduces the Risk of Conflict
Investments of over US$260m (£168m) into research and development funds (R&D) for Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) have made harvesting this renewable energy achievable at the present time. OTEC’s ability to simultaneously produce voluminous quantities of fresh drinking water and baseload renewable energy will be a factor in reducing global water-stress conflict and safeguarding international security.
The OTEC demonstration plant, built in Hawaii in the 1990s, bears witness to OTEC’s reliability against tropical storms and hurricanes. With twenty uninterrupted years of cold deep ocean water flowing through its pipes, the facility proves that climate-driven weather events pose minimal threat to OTEC’s functional components. This makes OTEC technology one of the most stable foundations on which to build a future of clean global energy.
Global commercialization of SWAC systems and OTEC plants will provide hundreds of communities with the self-empowerment tools they need to shape a sustainable future. As countries develop clean energy, they can step away from volatile and expensive fossil fuels and move closer to long-term energy independence.
In summary, by providing safe, reliable products that are in great demand by the world’s core markets, OTEC offers enormous business investment opportunities. Its technologies also offer a vision of community independence, carbon emission reduction and fresh drinking water supplies around the globe.