Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion technologies offer practical systems and solutions for producing clean energy. China has a great interest about this positive alternative energy and consumer trend, as Beijing’s Reignwood Group has agreed to work with Lockheed Martin for meeting the increased demand:
The demand for clean, reliable energy continues to grow. Beijing-based Reignwood Group wants to meet that demand, and it plans to work with Lockheed Martin to do it. Lockheed Martin recently entered into an agreement with Reignwood to develop and build a 10-megawatt Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) pilot power plant off the coast of southern China. The memorandum of agreement between the two companies was signed in Beijing on April 13. Following a formal signing ceremony, both companies also had the opportunity to meet with United States Secretary of State John Kerry during his first official state visit to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). While in China, Sec. Kerry announced a new U.S.-China Climate Change Coalition, underscoring the importance of developing renewable energy technologies such as OTEC.
More importantly, the innovative character of the offshore plant is also important for future energy constructions and projects, as it is going to supply the 100% of energy which is needed to support a green resort:
The offshore plant, to be designed by Lockheed Martin, will be the largest OTEC project developed to date, supplying 100 percent of the power needed for a green resort being developed by Reignwood. In addition, the agreement could lay the foundation for the development of several additional OTEC power plants, ranging in size from 10 to 100 megawatts, for a potential multibillion-dollar value. Southern China is an ideal location for an OTEC plant, which uses the natural temperature differences found in the ocean of tropical regions to drive turbines that create electricity. The energy produced by an OTEC facility is clean, sustainable and well-suited to the ocean conditions found near 80 countries around the world, including in the Asia-Pacific.
“The agreement could lay the foundation for the development of several additional OTEC power plants ranging in size from 10 to 100 megawatts, for a potential multi-billion dollar value,” according to Lockheed in a press release. This is exciting for two reasons. One, it’s very cool technology, and being an energy geek I love hearing this kind of news. Two, there’s huge potential here for the ocean to supply emission-free electricity around the world. Lockheed has been working on this technology since the 1970s. An OTEC power plant basically uses heat exchangers to extract heat out of the warmer upper ocean layers and create steam from a working fluid with a low boiling temperature, such as ammonia. As I wrote in my book Mad Like Tesla, “The steam would drive a turbine that generates electricity. Cold water from deeper layers would then be used to condense the ammonia back into fluid, at which point the cycle would be repeated.” In my book, I quoted Ted Johnson, director of alternative energy development at Lockheed, who is clearly optimistic about what the technology could offer. “I dream of thousands of floating OTEC ships roaming the seas of the world, providing an inexhaustible supply of clean energy and fuel and water for all people of the world.” While Lockheed has been working on this for four decades, one of the first in-depth discussions of the concept came from Nikola Tesla, who at the age of 75 outlined how such a plant might be built in the December 1931 issue of Everyday Science and Mechanics journal. Tesla spent considerable time trying devising a way to improve the efficiencies of such a power plant, but he determined that it was too great an engineering challenge at the time. “I have studied this plan of power production from all angles and have devised apparatus for bringing down all losses to what I might call the irreducible minimum and still I find the performance too small to enable successful competition with the present methods,” he wrote, though still expressing hope that new methods would eventually make it possible to economically tap the thermal energy in oceans.
On the other hand, ocean thermal energy conversion projects can effectively address climate change security threats, caused by the sea level rise and “protect” the U.S. naval facilities and operations:
U.S. Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, head of the U.S. Navy Pacific command, said earlier this month, “climate change is the biggest long-term security threat in the Pacific region”. Ocean thermal energy conversion addresses the threats to naval operations and the security stressors of sea level rise and weather Admiral Locklear identifies by helping to reduce thermal expansion of the oceans and the movement of heat towards the poles and by sapping the energy of cyclonic circulations. Since 2009, the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command has awarded Lockheed Martin $12.5 million to develop critical OTEC system components and advance the design for an OTEC pilot plant, an essential step in developing large-scale utility plants. In the humble opinion of this writer, this is an asymmetrically low response to the threat which can be mitigated by massive deployment of OTEC, which in turn has the potential to produce nearly twice the output from current primary energy sources. The cost and environmental drawbacks of conventional OTEC are overcome by using a heat pipe, as much as 1/10th the size of a conventional cold water pipe, which transfers heat by circulating the working fluid in a closed loop between the hot and cold reservoirs. The crushing problem associated with circulating a low pressure gas within a small pipe surrounded by high pressure is addressed by a coiled and pressurized counter-current heat flow system that recaptures the latent heat of condensation of the working fluid and returns it to the surface. With OTEC the navy can become energy self-sufficient in its own domain and can be relieved of a heavy burden in the Middle East. A win for the U.S. Navy. A win for the planet.
Finally, it is more than obvious that taking advantage of the benefits offered by alternative energy production technologies is becoming an one ticket solution both for the environmental science, sea engineering and energy consumer economics. Long-term security for U.S. naval operations is another serious issue: Ocean Thermal Energy!