The technology for OTEC was proven 20 years ago. In the last two decades, two key changes one economic and one technological, have occurred to make OTEC ready for commercialization NOW.
1. Fossil Fuel Price Volatility
Oil prices have been unstable for two decades with wild pricing swings. With increasing renewable energy mandates globally, and turmoil in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation’s book of potential customers continues to grow rapidly.
2. Technological Advances in Large-Scale Piping
Technological advances in deep water piping from the offshore oil industry have made large-scale, robust pipes commercially available for OTEC plants. After more than 30 years and $300 million spent on OTEC R&D, a 2009 report issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concluded that a 10 MW OTEC plant can now be built and successfully operated using all commercially available components.
With these two developments, OTEC is economically viable. SWAC is already commercialized and successfully operating in several locations around the world. Both of these well-proven technologies can also help produce plentiful amounts of fresh drinking water, dramatically reduce carbon emissions, save millions of dollars in energy costs in appropriate markets, and allow customers to accurately predict their energy costs for many years to come.
Energy From Our Oceans
William Shakespeare once said,
It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.
When it comes to the global threat of climate change and the world’s sustainable energy supply future, the famed author was paradoxically both right and wrong. His observation that we must act thoughtfully in the present to shape our own future is quite correct. But given the fact that the sun is the star at the center of our solar system, he literally missed the main point. Three hundred years after Shakespeare, Thomas Edison aptly described the central role of this star we call the sun, as the future global energy source:
We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy–sun, wind and tide. I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.
Eighty percent of the sun’s solar energy is stored in the surface waters of the world’s oceans. That is 4,000 times the amount of energy the world uses every day, and this energy is replenished daily by the sun. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), with over $300 million Research & Development funds previously spent, is today a proven technology using the temperature differential between warm ocean surface water and cold deep water to generate clean baseload (24/7) renewable energy.
Renewable Baseload and More…
But OTEC is much bigger than just baseload (24/7) renewable energy. It can also be used to produce great volumes of potable water and sustainable aquaculture and mariculture. Thus, OTEC’s unique package of energy, water and food -the basic necessities for all humans -means OTEC can provide communities around the world with sustainable independence based upon their most abundant local resource: the ocean.
OTEC’s clean energy/potable water and sustainable food package is not “pie in the sky” dreaming…but in fact has been done in Hawaii, USA where the pilot OTEC plant was built in the 1990s at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA). At that NELHA site, the deep cold water pipes are still operational and have given rise to thriving businesses, including multiple water bottling plants as well as sustainable aquaculture and mariculture operations.
Having a land-based OTEC plant successfully proven in Hawaii, USA in the 1990s with U.S. Department of Energy funding, OTEC is now ready for large-scale commercial development as a result of two changing factors in the last 20 years. First, technical advances in the offshore oil industry, many of which are applicable to deep cold water pipe technology for OTEC, means small (5-20MW) land-based OTEC plants can now be built with off-the- shelf components, with minimal technology/engineering risks for plant construction and operation.
In fact, the authoritative U.S. Government agency NOAA issued a 2009 report concluding that, using a single cold water pipe (CWP) a 10MW OTEC plant is now “technically feasible using current design, manufacturing, deployment techniques and materials.” Using more than one CWP, a 20MW plant can also now be built with off-the-shelf components. Second, high oil prices have made OTEC electricity pricing increasingly competitive, particularly in tropical island countries where electricity prices, based almost entirely on imported fossil fuels, are now in the exorbitant range of 30-60 cents/kWh.
OTEC has hundreds of suitable project locations worldwide in the tropics and sub-tropics, where 3 billion people live. Numerous OTEC customers worldwide have expressed to Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation (OTE) a sense of urgency to engage the company to help them immediately move away from fossil fuel dependency, particularly in light of tumultuous events in the Middle East, which threaten spiking oil prices. In the words of one Energy Minister,
Please help free my country from the tyranny of oil.
And another utility top executive remarked,
If oil goes back to $140 per barrel and stays there for any sustained period, it will spell economic catastrophe for this community.
Reflecting this immediate market demand, OTE now has multiple projects in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.
OTEC plants can be built where there is sufficient temperature difference (∆T) between warm surface and cold deep water. SWAC works anywhere there is sufficient cold water
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (“NREL”) data shows potential locations suitable for OTEC as 68 countries and 29 territories
- OTE estimates the market size for these regions will generate revenues of over $2 trillion over the next 25 years