Ocean thermal energy conversion
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) uses the difference between cooler deep and warmer shallow or surface ocean
An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.More than half of this area is over 3,000...

 waters to run a heat engine
Heat engine
In thermodynamics, a heat engine is a system that performs the conversion of heat or thermal energy to mechanical work. It does this by bringing a working substance from a high temperature state to a lower temperature state. A heat "source" generates thermal energy that brings the working substance...

 and produce useful work, usually in the form of electricity.

A heat engine gives greater efficiency and power when run with a large temperature
Temperature is a physical property of matter that quantitatively expresses the common notions of hot and cold. Objects of low temperature are cold, while various degrees of higher temperatures are referred to as warm or hot...

 difference. In the oceans the temperature difference between surface and deep water is greatest in the tropics
The tropics is a region of the Earth surrounding the Equator. It is limited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere at approximately  N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere at  S; these latitudes correspond to the axial tilt of the Earth...

, although still a modest 20oC to 25oC. It is therefore in the tropics that OTEC offers the greatest possibilities.
OTEC has the potential to offer global amounts of energy that are 10 to 100 times greater than other ocean energy options such as wave power
Wave power
Wave power is the transport of energy by ocean surface waves, and the capture of that energy to do useful work — for example, electricity generation, water desalination, or the pumping of water...

. OTEC plants can operate continuously providing a base load supply for an electrical power generation system.

The main technical challenge of OTEC is to generate significant amounts of power efficiently from small temperature differences. It is still considered an emerging technology. Early OTEC systems were of 1 to 3% thermal efficiency
Thermal efficiency
In thermodynamics, the thermal efficiency is a dimensionless performance measure of a device that uses thermal energy, such as an internal combustion engine, a boiler, a furnace, or a refrigerator for example.-Overview:...

, well below the theoretical maximum for this temperature difference of between 6 and 7%. Current designs are expected to be closer to the maximum. The first operational system was built in Cuba in 1930 and generated 22 kW. Modern designs allow performance approaching the theoretical maximum Carnot efficiency and the largest built in 1999 by the USA generated 250 kW .

The most commonly used heat cycle for OTEC is the Rankine cycle
Rankine cycle
The Rankine cycle is a cycle that converts heat into work. The heat is supplied externally to a closed loop, which usually uses water. This cycle generates about 90% of all electric power used throughout the world, including virtually all solar thermal, biomass, coal and nuclear power plants. It is...

 using a low-pressure turbine. Systems may be either closed-cycle or open-cycle. Closed-cycle engines use working fluids that are typically thought of as refrigerant
A refrigerant is a substance used in a heat cycle usually including, for enhanced efficiency, a reversible phase change from a liquid to a gas. Traditionally, fluorocarbons, especially chlorofluorocarbons, were used as refrigerants, but they are being phased out because of their ozone depletion...

s such as ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

 or R-134a. Open-cycle engines use vapour from the seawater
Seawater is water from a sea or ocean. On average, seawater in the world's oceans has a salinity of about 3.5% . This means that every kilogram of seawater has approximately of dissolved salts . The average density of seawater at the ocean surface is 1.025 g/ml...

 itself as the working fluid.

OTEC can also supply quantities of cold water as a by-product . This can be used for air conditioning and refrigeration and the fertile deep ocean water can feed biological technologies. Another by-product is fresh water distilled from the sea.


Attempts to develop and refine OTEC technology started in the 1880s. In 1881, Jacques Arsene d'Arsonval, a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

, proposed tapping the thermal energy of the ocean. D'Arsonval's student, Georges Claude
Georges Claude
Georges Claude was a French engineer and inventor. He is noted for his early work on the industrial liquefaction of air, for the invention and commercialization of neon lighting, and for a large experiment on generating energy by pumping cold seawater up from the depths...

, built the first OTEC plant, in Matanzas, Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 in 1930. The system generated 22 kW of electricity
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

 with a low-pressure
Pressure is the force per unit area applied in a direction perpendicular to the surface of an object. Gauge pressure is the pressure relative to the local atmospheric or ambient pressure.- Definition :...

A turbine is a rotary engine that extracts energy from a fluid flow and converts it into useful work.The simplest turbines have one moving part, a rotor assembly, which is a shaft or drum with blades attached. Moving fluid acts on the blades, or the blades react to the flow, so that they move and...


In 1931, Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer...

 released "Our Future Motive Power", which described such a system. Tesla ultimately concluded that the scale of engineering required made it impractical for large scale development.

In 1935, Claude constructed a plant aboard a 10,000-ton
The ton is a unit of measure. It has a long history and has acquired a number of meanings and uses over the years. It is used principally as a unit of weight, and as a unit of volume. It can also be used as a measure of energy, for truck classification, or as a colloquial term.It is derived from...

 cargo vessel moored off the coast of Brazil. Weather and waves destroyed it before it could generate net power. (Net power is the amount of power generated after subtracting power needed to run the system.)

In 1956, French scientists designed a 3 MW plant for Abidjan
Abidjan is the economic and former official capital of Côte d'Ivoire, while the current capital is Yamoussoukro. it was the largest city in the nation and the third-largest French-speaking city in the world, after Paris, and Kinshasa but before Montreal...

, Ivory Coast. The plant was never completed, because new finds of large amounts of cheap oil made it uneconomical.

In 1962, J. Hilbert Anderson and James H. Anderson, Jr. focused on increasing component efficiency. They patented their new "closed cycle" design in 1967.

Japan is a major contributor to the development of the technology. Beginning in 1970 the Tokyo Electric Power Company successfully built and deployed a 100 kW closed-cycle OTEC plant on the island of Nauru
Nauru , officially the Republic of Nauru and formerly known as Pleasant Island, is an island country in Micronesia in the South Pacific. Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in Kiribati, to the east. Nauru is the world's smallest republic, covering just...

. The plant became operational 1981-10-14, producing about 120 kW of electricity; 90 kW was used to power the plant and the remaining electricity was used to power a school and other places. This set a world record for power output from an OTEC system where the power was sent to a real power grid.

The United States became involved in 1974, establishing the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority at Keahole Point
Keahole Point
Keāhole Point is the westernmost point of the island of Hawaii. The Kona International Airport was moved here from directly north of the town of Kailua-Kona in 1970, when the previous smaller airstrip was converted into the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area...

 on the Kona coast
Kona District, Hawaii
Kona is the name of a moku or district on the Big Island of Hawaii in the State of Hawaii. In the current system of administration of Hawaii County, the moku of Kona is divided into North Kona District and South Kona District . The term "Kona" is sometimes used to refer to its largest town,...

 of Hawaii
Hawaii (island)
The Island of Hawaii, also called the Big Island or Hawaii Island , is a volcanic island in the North Pacific Ocean...

. Hawaii is the best U.S. OTEC location, due to its warm surface water, access to very deep, very cold water, and Hawaii's high electricity costs. The laboratory has become a leading test facility for OTEC technology.

India built a one MW floating OTEC pilot plant near Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is one of the 28 states of India. Its capital and largest city is Chennai. Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of the Indian Peninsula and is bordered by the union territory of Pondicherry, and the states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh...

, and its government
Government of India
The Government of India, officially known as the Union Government, and also known as the Central Government, was established by the Constitution of India, and is the governing authority of the union of 28 states and seven union territories, collectively called the Republic of India...

 continues to sponsor research.

Cycle types

Cold seawater is an integral part of each of the three types of OTEC systems: closed-cycle, open-cycle, and hybrid. To operate, the cold seawater must be brought to the surface. The primary approaches are active pumping and desalination. Desalinating seawater near the sea floor lowers its density, which causes it to rise to the surface.

The alternative to costly pipes to bring condensing cold water to the surface is to pump vaporized low boiling point fluid into the depths to be condensed, thus reducing pumping volumes and reducing technical and environmental problems and lowering costs.


Closed-cycle systems use fluid with a low boiling point, such as ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

, to power a turbine
A turbine is a rotary engine that extracts energy from a fluid flow and converts it into useful work.The simplest turbines have one moving part, a rotor assembly, which is a shaft or drum with blades attached. Moving fluid acts on the blades, or the blades react to the flow, so that they move and...

 to generate electricity. Warm surface seawater
Seawater is water from a sea or ocean. On average, seawater in the world's oceans has a salinity of about 3.5% . This means that every kilogram of seawater has approximately of dissolved salts . The average density of seawater at the ocean surface is 1.025 g/ml...

 is pumped through a heat exchanger
Heat exchanger
A heat exchanger is a piece of equipment built for efficient heat transfer from one medium to another. The media may be separated by a solid wall, so that they never mix, or they may be in direct contact...

 to vaporize the fluid. The expanding vapor turns the turbo-generator. Cold water, pumped through a second heat exchanger, condenses the vapor into a liquid, which is then recycled through the system.

In 1979, the Natural Energy Laboratory and several private-sector partners developed the "mini OTEC" experiment, which achieved the first successful at-sea production of net electrical power from closed-cycle OTEC. The mini OTEC vessel was moored 1.5 miles (2.4 km) off the Hawaiian coast and produced enough net electricity to illuminate the ship's light bulbs and run its computers and television.


Open-cycle OTEC uses warm surface water directly to make electricity. Placing warm seawater in a low-pressure container causes it to boil. The expanding steam
Steam is the technical term for water vapor, the gaseous phase of water, which is formed when water boils. In common language it is often used to refer to the visible mist of water droplets formed as this water vapor condenses in the presence of cooler air...

 drives a low-pressure turbine attached to an electrical generator
Electrical generator
In electricity generation, an electric generator is a device that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy. A generator forces electric charge to flow through an external electrical circuit. It is analogous to a water pump, which causes water to flow...

. The steam, which has left its salt
In chemistry, salts are ionic compounds that result from the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. They are composed of cations and anions so that the product is electrically neutral...

 and other contaminants in the low-pressure container, is pure fresh water
Fresh Water
Fresh Water is the debut album by Australian rock and blues singer Alison McCallum, released in 1972. Rare for an Australian artist at the time, it came in a gatefold sleeve...

. It is condensed into a liquid by exposure to cold temperatures from deep-ocean water. This method produces desalinized fresh water, suitable for drinking water
Drinking water
Drinking water or potable water is water pure enough to be consumed or used with low risk of immediate or long term harm. In most developed countries, the water supplied to households, commerce and industry is all of drinking water standard, even though only a very small proportion is actually...

 or irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...


In 1984, the Solar Energy Research Institute (now the National Renewable Energy Laboratory
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory , located in Golden, Colorado, is the United States' primary laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is a government-owned, contractor-operated facility; it is funded through...

) developed a vertical-spout evaporator to convert warm seawater into low-pressure steam for open-cycle plants. Conversion efficiencies were as high as 97% for seawater-to-steam conversion (overall efficiency using a vertical-spout evaporator would still only be a few per cent). In May 1993, an open-cycle OTEC plant at Keahole Point, Hawaii, produced 50,000 watt
The watt is a derived unit of power in the International System of Units , named after the Scottish engineer James Watt . The unit, defined as one joule per second, measures the rate of energy conversion.-Definition:...

s of electricity during a net power-producing experiment. This broke the record of 40 kW set by a Japanese system in 1982.


A hybrid cycle combines the features of the closed- and open-cycle systems. In a hybrid, warm seawater enters a vacuum chamber and is flash-evaporated, similar to the open-cycle evaporation process. The steam vaporizes the ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

 working fluid of a closed-cycle loop on the other side of an ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

 vaporizer. The vaporized fluid then drives a turbine to produce electricity. The steam condenses within the heat exchanger and provides desalinated water
Desalination, desalinization, or desalinisation refers to any of several processes that remove some amount of salt and other minerals from saline water...

. (see heat pipe
Heat pipe
A heat pipe or heat pin is a heat-transfer device that combines the principles of both thermal conductivity and phase transition to efficiently manage the transfer of heat between two solid interfaces....


Working fluids

A popular choice of working fluid is ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

, which has superior transport properties, easy availability, and low cost. Ammonia, however, is toxic and flammable. Fluorinated carbons such as CFCs and HCFCs are not toxic or flammable, but they contribute to ozone layer depletion. Hydrocarbons too are good candidates, but they are highly flammable; in addition, this would create competition for use of them directly as fuels. The power plant size is dependent upon the vapor pressure of the working fluid. With increasing vapor pressure, the size of the turbine and heat exchangers decreases while the wall thickness of the pipe and heat exchangers increase to endure high pressure especially on the evaporator side.

Land, shelf and floating sites

OTEC has the potential to produce gigawatts of electrical power, and in conjunction with electrolysis
In chemistry and manufacturing, electrolysis is a method of using a direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction...

, could produce enough hydrogen to completely replace all projected global fossil fuel consumption. Reducing costs remains an unsolved challenge, however. OTEC plants require a long, large diameter intake pipe, which is submerged a kilometer or more into the ocean's depths, to bring cold water to the surface.


Land-based and near-shore facilities offer three main advantages over those located in deep water. Plants constructed on or near land do not require sophisticated mooring, lengthy power cables, or the more extensive maintenance associated with open-ocean environments. They can be installed in sheltered areas so that they are relatively safe from storms and heavy seas. Electricity, desalinated water, and cold, nutrient-rich seawater could be transmitted from near-shore facilities via trestle bridges or causeways. In addition, land-based or near-shore sites allow plants to operate with related industries such as mariculture
Mariculture is a specialized branch of aquaculture involving the cultivation of marine organisms for food and other products in the open ocean, an enclosed section of the ocean, or in tanks, ponds or raceways which are filled with seawater. An example of the latter is the farming of marine fish,...

 or those that require desalinated water.

Favored locations include those with narrow shelves (volcanic islands), steep (15-20 degrees) offshore slopes, and relatively smooth sea floors. These sites minimize the length of the intake pipe. A land-based plant could be built well inland from the shore, offering more protection from storms, or on the beach, where the pipes would be shorter. In either case, easy access for construction and operation helps lower costs.

Land-based or near-shore sites can also support mariculture. Tanks or lagoons built on shore allow workers to monitor and control miniature marine environments. Mariculture products can be delivered to market via standard transport.

One disadvantage of land-based facilities arises from the turbulent wave action in the surf zone
Surf zone
As ocean surface waves come closer to shore they break, forming the foamy, bubbly surface we call surf. The region of breaking waves defines the surf zone. After breaking in the surf zone, the waves continue to move in, and they run up onto the sloping front of the beach, forming an uprush of...

. Unless the OTEC plant's water supply and discharge pipes are buried in protective trenches, they will be subject to extreme stress during storms and prolonged periods of heavy seas. Also, the mixed discharge of cold and warm seawater may need to be carried several hundred meters offshore to reach the proper depth before it is released. This arrangement requires additional expense in construction and maintenance.

OTEC systems can avoid some of the problems and expenses of operating in a surf zone if they are built just offshore in waters ranging from 10 to 30 meters deep (Ocean Thermal Corporation 1984). This type of plant would use shorter (and therefore less costly) intake and discharge pipes, which would avoid the dangers of turbulent surf. The plant itself, however, would require protection from the marine environment, such as breakwaters and erosion-resistant foundations, and the plant output would need to be transmitted to shore.


To avoid the turbulent surf zone as well as to move closer to the cold-water resource, OTEC plants can be mounted to the continental shelf at depths up to 100 metres (328.1 ft). A shelf-mounted plant could be towed to the site and affixed to the sea bottom. This type of construction is already used for offshore oil rigs. The complexities of operating an OTEC plant in deeper water may make them more expensive than land-based approaches. Problems include the stress of open-ocean conditions and more difficult product delivery. Addressing strong ocean currents and large waves adds engineering and construction expense. Platforms require extensive pilings to maintain a stable base. Power delivery can require long underwater cables to reach land. For these reasons, shelf-mounted plants are less attractive.


Floating OTEC facilities operate off-shore. Although potentially optimal for large systems, floating facilities present several difficulties. The difficulty of mooring plants in very deep water complicates power delivery. Cables attached to floating platforms are more susceptible to damage, especially during storms. Cables at depths greater than 1000 meters are difficult to maintain and repair. Riser cables, which connect the sea bed and the plant, need to be constructed to resist entanglement.

As with shelf-mounted plants, floating plants need a stable base for continuous operation. Major storms and heavy seas can break the vertically suspended cold-water pipe and interrupt warm water intake as well. To help prevent these problems, pipes can be made of flexible polyethylene attached to the bottom of the platform and gimballed with joints or collars. Pipes may need to be uncoupled from the plant to prevent storm damage. As an alternative to a warm-water pipe, surface water can be drawn directly into the platform; however, it is necessary to prevent the intake flow from being damaged or interrupted during violent motions caused by heavy seas.

Connecting a floating plant to power delivery cables requires the plant to remain relatively stationary. Mooring is an acceptable method, but current mooring technology is limited to depths of about 2000 metres (6,561.7 ft). Even at shallower depths, the cost of mooring may be prohibitive.

Some proposed projects

OTEC projects under consideration include a small plant for the U.S. Navy base on the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 overseas territory island of Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia is a tropical, footprint-shaped coral atoll located south of the equator in the central Indian Ocean at 7 degrees, 26 minutes south latitude. It is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory [BIOT] and is positioned at 72°23' east longitude....

 in the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

. OCEES International, Inc. is working with the U.S. Navy on a design for a proposed 13-MW OTEC plant, to replace the current diesel generators. The OTEC plant would also provide 1.25 million gallons per day (MGD) of potable water. A private U.S. company has proposed building a 10-MW OTEC plant on Guam
Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is one of five U.S. territories with an established civilian government. Guam is listed as one of 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories by the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United...



Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin is an American global aerospace, defense, security, and advanced technology company with worldwide interests. It was formed by the merger of Lockheed Corporation with Martin Marietta in March 1995. It is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, in the Washington Metropolitan Area....

's Alternative Energy Development team has partnered with Makai Ocean Engineering
to complete the final design phase of a 10-MW closed cycle OTEC pilot system which will become operational in Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

 in the 2012-2013 time frame. This system is being designed to expand to 100-MW commercial systems in the near future. In November, 2010 the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) awarded Lockheed Martin a US$4.4 million contract modification to develop critical system components and designs for the plant, adding to the 2009 $8.1 million contract and two Department of Energy
United States Department of Energy
The United States Department of Energy is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government concerned with the United States' policies regarding energy and safety in handling nuclear material...

 grants totaling $1 million in 2008 and March 2010.

Air conditioning

The 41 °F (5 °C) cold seawater made available by an OTEC system creates an opportunity to provide large amounts of cooling to operations near the plant. The water can be used in chilled-water coils to provide air-conditioning for buildings. It is estimated that a pipe 1 foot (0.3048 m) in diameter can deliver 4,700 gallons per minute of water. Water at 43 °F (6.1 °C) could provide more than enough air-conditioning for a large building. Operating 8,000 hours per year in lieu of electrical conditioning selling for 5-10¢ per kilowatt-hour, it would save $200,000-$400,000 in energy bills annually.

The InterContinental
InterContinental is a brand of upscale luxury hotels, founded by Pan American World Airways, under Juan Trippe, and now owned by InterContinental Hotels Group. The chain operates over 200 hotels and resorts in approximately 75 nations.-History:...

 Resort and Thalasso-Spa on the island of Bora Bora
Bora Bora
The commune of Bora-Bora is made up of the island of Bora Bora proper with its surrounding islets emerging from the coral reef, 29.3 km² in total, and of the atoll of Tupai , located north of Bora Bora...

 uses an OTEC system to air-condition its buildings. The system passes seawater through a heat exchanger where it cools freshwater in a closed loop system. This freshwater is then pumped to buildings and directly cools the air.

Chilled-soil agriculture

OTEC technology supports chilled-soil agriculture. When cold seawater flows through underground pipes, it chills the surrounding soil. The temperature difference between roots in the cool soil and leaves in the warm air allows plants that evolved in temperate climates to be grown in the subtropics
The subtropics are the geographical and climatical zone of the Earth immediately north and south of the tropical zone, which is bounded by the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, at latitudes 23.5°N and 23.5°S...

. Dr. John P. Craven, Dr. Jack Davidson and Richard Bailey patented this process and demonstrated it at a research facility at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA). The research facility demonstrated that more than 100 different crops can be grown using this system. Many normally could not survive in Hawaii or at Keahole Point.


Aquaculture, also known as aquafarming, is the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic plants. Aquaculture involves cultivating freshwater and saltwater populations under controlled conditions, and can be contrasted with commercial fishing, which is the...

 is the best-known byproduct, because it reduces the financial and energy costs of pumping large volumes of water from the deep ocean. Deep ocean water contains high concentrations of essential nutrients that are depleted in surface waters due to biological consumption. This "artificial upwelling" mimics the natural upwellings that are responsible for fertilizing and supporting the world's largest marine ecosystems, and the largest densities of life on the planet.

Cold-water delicacies, such as salmon
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. Several other fish in the same family are called trout; the difference is often said to be that salmon migrate and trout are resident, but this distinction does not strictly hold true...

 and lobster
Clawed lobsters comprise a family of large marine crustaceans. Highly prized as seafood, lobsters are economically important, and are often one of the most profitable commodities in coastal areas they populate.Though several groups of crustaceans are known as lobsters, the clawed lobsters are most...

, thrive in this nutrient-rich, deep, seawater. Microalgae such as Spirulina, a health food supplement, also can be cultivated. Deep-ocean water can be combined with surface water to deliver water at an optimal temperature.

Non-native species such as Salmon
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. Several other fish in the same family are called trout; the difference is often said to be that salmon migrate and trout are resident, but this distinction does not strictly hold true...

, lobster
Clawed lobsters comprise a family of large marine crustaceans. Highly prized as seafood, lobsters are economically important, and are often one of the most profitable commodities in coastal areas they populate.Though several groups of crustaceans are known as lobsters, the clawed lobsters are most...

, abalone
Abalone , from aulón, are small to very large-sized edible sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs in the family Haliotidae and the genus Haliotis...

, trout
Trout is the name for a number of species of freshwater and saltwater fish belonging to the Salmoninae subfamily of the family Salmonidae. Salmon belong to the same family as trout. Most salmon species spend almost all their lives in salt water...

, oyster
The word oyster is used as a common name for a number of distinct groups of bivalve molluscs which live in marine or brackish habitats. The valves are highly calcified....

s, and clam
The word "clam" can be applied to freshwater mussels, and other freshwater bivalves, as well as marine bivalves.In the United States, "clam" can be used in several different ways: one, as a general term covering all bivalve molluscs...

s can be raised in pools supplied by OTEC-pumped water. This extends the variety of fresh seafood products available for nearby markets. Such low-cost refrigeration can be used to maintain the quality of harvested fish, which deteriorate quickly in warm tropical regions.


Desalinated water can be produced in open- or hybrid-cycle plants using surface condensers to turn evaporated seawater into potable water. System analysis indicates that a 2-megawatt plant could produce about 4300 cubic metres (151,853.1 cu ft) of desalinated water each day. Another system patented by Richard Bailey creates condensate water by regulating deep ocean water flow through surface condensers correlating with fluctuating dew-point temperatures. This condensation system uses no incremental energy and has no moving parts.

Hydrogen production

Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 can be produced via electrolysis
In chemistry and manufacturing, electrolysis is a method of using a direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction...

 using OTEC electricity. Generated steam with electrolyte compounds added to improve efficiency is a relatively pure medium for hydrogen production. OTEC can be scaled to generate large quantities of hydrogen. The main challenge is cost relative to other energy sources and fuels.

Mineral extraction

The ocean contains 57 trace element
Trace element
In analytical chemistry, a trace element is an element in a sample that has an average concentration of less than 100 parts per million measured in atomic count, or less than 100 micrograms per gram....

s in salts and other forms and dissolved in solution. In the past, most economic analyses concluded that mining the ocean for trace elements would be unprofitable, in part because of the energy required to pump the water. Mining generally targets minerals that occur in high concentrations, and can be extracted easily, such as magnesium
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

. With OTEC plants supplying water, the only cost is for extraction.
The Japanese investigated the possibility of extracting uranium
Uranium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element in the actinide series of the periodic table, with atomic number 92. It is assigned the chemical symbol U. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 92 electrons, of which 6 are valence electrons...

 and found developments in other technologies (especially materials sciences) were improving the prospects.

Political concerns

Because OTEC facilities are more-or-less stationary surface platforms, their exact location and legal status may be affected by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea , also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, is the international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea , which took place from 1973 through 1982...

 treaty (UNCLOS). This treaty grants coastal nations 3-, 12-, and 200 miles (321.9 km) zones of varying legal authority from land, creating potential conflicts and regulatory barriers. OTEC plants and similar structures would be considered artificial islands under the treaty, giving them no independent legal status. OTEC plants could be perceived as either a threat or potential partner to fisheries
Fisheries management
Fisheries management draws on fisheries science in order to find ways to protect fishery resources so sustainable exploitation is possible. Modern fisheries management is often referred to as a governmental system of appropriate management rules based on defined objectives and a mix of management...

 or to seabed mining operations controlled by the International Seabed Authority
International Seabed Authority
The International Seabed Authority is an intergovernmental body based in Kingston, Jamaica, that was established to organize and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world’s oceans...


Cost and economics

For OTEC to be viable as a power source, the technology must have tax and subsidy treatment similar to competing energy sources. Because OTEC systems have not yet been widely deployed, cost estimates are uncertain. One study estimates power generation costs as low as US $0.07 per kilowatt-hour, compared with $0.05 - $0.07 for subsidized wind systems.

Beneficial factors that should be taken into account include OTEC's lack of waste products and fuel consumption, the area in which it is available, (often within 20° of the equator) the geopolitical effects of petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 dependence, compatibility with alternate forms of ocean power such as wave energy, tidal energy and methane hydrates, and supplemental uses for the seawater.

Mathematics of OTEC

A rigorous treatment of OTEC reveals that a 20oK temperature difference will provide as much energy as a hydro electric plant with 34m head for the same volume of water flow.
The low temperature difference means that water volumes must be very large to extract useful amounts of heat and enormous heat exchangers must be employed compared to those used at a plant running with a larger temperature difference such as in conventional thermal power generation.

Variation of ocean temperature with depth

The total insolation received by the oceans (covering 70% of the earth's surface, with clearness index of 0.5 and average energy retention of 15%) is

We can use Lambert's law to quantify the solar energy absorption by water,

where, y is the depth of water, I is intensity and μ is the absorption coefficient.
Solving the above differential equation
Differential equation
A differential equation is a mathematical equation for an unknown function of one or several variables that relates the values of the function itself and its derivatives of various orders...


The absorption coefficient μ may range from 0.05 m−1 for very clear fresh water to 0.5 m−1 for very salty water.

Since the intensity falls exponentially with depth y, heat absorption is concentrated at the top layers. Typically in the tropics, surface temperature values are in excess of 25 °C (77 °F), while at 1 kilometre (0.621372736649807 mi), the temperature is about 5–10 °C (41–50 F). The warmer (and hence lighter) waters at the surface means there are no thermal convection currents. Due to the small temperature gradients, heat transfer by conduction
Heat conduction
In heat transfer, conduction is a mode of transfer of energy within and between bodies of matter, due to a temperature gradient. Conduction means collisional and diffusive transfer of kinetic energy of particles of ponderable matter . Conduction takes place in all forms of ponderable matter, viz....

 is too low to equalize the temperatures. The ocean is thus both a practically infinite heat source and a practically infinite heat sink.

This temperature difference varies with latitude and season, with the maximum in tropical, subtropical and equatorial waters. Hence the tropics are generally the best OTEC locations.

Open/Claude cycle

In this scheme, warm surface water at around 27 °C (80.6 °F) enters an evaporator at pressure slightly below the saturation pressures causing it to vaporize.

Where H is enthalpy
Enthalpy is a measure of the total energy of a thermodynamic system. It includes the internal energy, which is the energy required to create a system, and the amount of energy required to make room for it by displacing its environment and establishing its volume and pressure.Enthalpy is a...

 of liquid water at the inlet temperature, T.

This temporarily superheated water undergoes volume boiling as opposed to pool boiling in conventional boilers where the heating surface is in contact. Thus the water partially flashes to steam with two-phase equilibrium prevailing. Suppose that the pressure inside the evaporator is maintained at the saturation pressure, T.

Here, x is the fraction of water by mass that vaporizes. The warm water mass flow rate per unit turbine
A turbine is a rotary engine that extracts energy from a fluid flow and converts it into useful work.The simplest turbines have one moving part, a rotor assembly, which is a shaft or drum with blades attached. Moving fluid acts on the blades, or the blades react to the flow, so that they move and...

 mass flow rate is 1/x.

The low pressure in the evaporator is maintained by a vacuum pump
Vacuum pump
A vacuum pump is a device that removes gas molecules from a sealed volume in order to leave behind a partial vacuum. The first vacuum pump was invented in 1650 by Otto von Guericke.- Types :Pumps can be broadly categorized according to three techniques:...

 that also removes the dissolved non-condensable gases from the evaporator. The evaporator now contains a mixture of water and steam of very low vapor quality
Vapor quality
In thermodynamics, vapor quality is a quantitative description of the usefulness of a vapor to do mechanical work. The quality of a fluid is the percentage of mass that is vapor; i.e. saturated vapor has a "quality" of 100%, and saturated liquid has a "quality" of 0%...

 (steam content). The steam is separated from the water as saturated vapor. The remaining water is saturated and is discharged to the ocean in the open cycle. The steam is a low pressure/high specific volume
Specific volume
In thermodynamics, the specific volume of a substance is the ratio of the substance's volume to its mass. It is the reciprocal of density:In thermodynamics, the specific volume of a substance is the ratio of the substance's volume to its mass...

 working fluid. It expands in a special low pressure turbine.

Here, H corresponds to T. For an ideal isentropic
Isentropic process
In thermodynamics, an isentropic process or isoentropic process is one in which for purposes of engineering analysis and calculation, one may assume that the process takes place from initiation to completion without an increase or decrease in the entropy of the system, i.e., the entropy of the...

 (reversible adiabatic) turbine,

The above equation corresponds to the temperature at the exhaust of the turbine, T. x is the mass fraction of vapor at state 5.

The enthalpy at T is,

This enthalpy is lower. The adiabatic reversible turbine work = H-H.

Actual turbine work

The condenser temperature and pressure are lower. Since the turbine exhaust is to be discharged back into the ocean, a direct contact condenser is used to mix the exhaust with cold water, which results in a near-saturated water. That water is now discharged back to the ocean.

H=H, at T. T is the temperature of the exhaust mixed with cold sea water, as the vapour content now is negligible,

The temperature differences between stages include that between warm surface water and working steam, that between exhaust steam and cooling water, and that between cooling water reaching the condenser and deep water. These represent external irreversibilities that reduce the overall temperature difference.

The cold water flow rate per unit turbine mass flow rate,

Turbine mass flow rate,

Warm water mass flow rate,

Cold water mass flow rate

Closed/Anderson cycle

Developed starting in the 1960s by J. Hilbert Anderson of Sea Solar Power, Inc. In this cycle, Q is the heat transferred in the evaporator from the warm sea water to the working fluid. The working fluid exits the evaporator as a gas near its dew point
Dew point
The dew point is the temperature to which a given parcel of humid air must be cooled, at constant barometric pressure, for water vapor to condense into liquid water. The condensed water is called dew when it forms on a solid surface. The dew point is a saturation temperature.The dew point is...


The high-pressure, high-temperature gas then is expanded in the turbine to yield turbine work, W. The working fluid is slightly superheated at the turbine exit and the turbine typically has an efficiency of 90% based on reversible, adiabatic expansion.

From the turbine exit, the working fluid enters the condenser where it rejects heat, -Q, to the cold sea water. The condensate is then compressed to the highest pressure in the cycle, requiring condensate pump work, W. Thus, the Anderson closed cycle is a Rankine-type cycle similar to the conventional power plant steam cycle except that in the Anderson cycle the working fluid is never superheated more than a few degrees Fahrenheit. Owing to viscous effects, working fluid pressure drops in both the evaporator and the condenser. This pressure drop, which depends on the types of heat exchangers used, must be considered in final design calculations but is ignored here to simplify the analysis. Thus, the parasitic condensate pump work, W, computed here will be lower than if the heat exchanger pressure drop was included. The major additional parasitic energy requirements in the OTEC plant are the cold water pump work, W, and the warm water pump work, W. Denoting all other parasitic energy requirements by W, the net work from the OTEC plant, W is

The thermodynamic cycle undergone by the working fluid can be analyzed without detailed consideration of the parasitic energy requirements. From the first law of thermodynamics, the energy balance for the working fluid as the system is

where is the net work for the thermodynamic cycle. For the idealized case in which there is no working fluid pressure drop in the heat exchangers,


so that the net thermodynamic cycle work becomes

Subcooled liquid enters the evaporator. Due to the heat exchange with warm sea water, evaporation takes place and usually superheated vapor leaves the evaporator. This vapor drives the turbine and the 2-phase mixture enters the condenser. Usually, the subcooled liquid leaves the condenser and finally, this liquid is pumped to the evaporator completing a cycle.

Dissolved gases

The performance of direct contact heat exchangers operating at typical OTEC boundary conditions is important to the Claude cycle. Many early Claude cycle designs used a surface condenser since their performance was well understood. However, direct contact condensers offer significant disadvantages. As cold water rises in the intake pipe, the pressure decreases to the point where gas begins to evolve. If a significant amount of gas comes out of solution, placing a gas trap before the direct contact heat exchangers may be justified. Experiments simulating conditions in the warm water intake pipe indicated about 30% of the dissolved gas evolves in the top 8.5 metres (27.9 ft) of the tube. The trade-off between pre-dearation of the seawater and expulsion of non-condensable gases from the condenser is dependent on the gas evolution dynamics, deaerator efficiency, head loss, vent compressor efficiency and parasitic power. Experimental results indicate vertical spout condensers perform some 30% better than falling jet types.

Microbial fouling

Because raw seawater must pass through the heat exchanger, care must be taken to maintain good thermal conductivity
Thermal conductivity
In physics, thermal conductivity, k, is the property of a material's ability to conduct heat. It appears primarily in Fourier's Law for heat conduction....

. Biofouling
Biofouling or biological fouling is the undesirable accumulation of microorganisms, plants, algae, or animals on wetted structures.-Impact:...

 layers as thin as 25 μm can degrade heat exchanger performance by as much as 50%. A 1977 study in which mock heat exchangers were exposed to seawater for ten weeks concluded that although the level of microbial fouling was low, the thermal conductivity of the system was significantly impaired. The apparent discrepancy between the level of fouling and the heat transfer impairment is the result of a thin layer of water trapped by the microbial growth on the surface of the heat exchanger.

Another study concluded that fouling degrades performance over time, and determined that although regular brushing was able to remove most of the microbial layer, over time a tougher layer formed that could not be removed through simple brushing. The study passed sponge rubber balls through the system. It concluded that although the ball treatment decreased the fouling rate it was not enough to completely halt growth and brushing was occasionally necessary to restore capacity. The microbes regrew more quickly later in the experiment (i.e. brushing became necessary more often) replicating the results of a previous study. The increased growth rate after subsequent cleanings appears to result from selection pressure on the microbial colony.

Continuous use of 1 hour per day and intermittent periods of free fouling and then chlorination
Chlorination is the process of adding the element chlorine to water as a method of water purification to make it fit for human consumption as drinking water...

 periods (again 1 hour per day) were studied. Chlorination slowed but did not stop microbial growth; however chlorination levels of .1 mg per liter for 1 hour per day may prove effective for long term operation of a plant. The study concluded that although microbial fouling was an issue for the warm surface water heat exchanger, the cold water heat exchanger suffered little or no biofouling and only minimal inorganic fouling.

Besides water temperature, microbial fouling also depends on nutrient levels, with growth occurring faster in nutrient rich water. The fouling rate also depends on the material used to construct the heat exchanger. Aluminium
Aluminium or aluminum is a silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances....

 tubing slows the growth of microbial life, although the oxide
Aluminium oxide
Aluminium oxide is an amphoteric oxide with the chemical formula 23. It is commonly referred to as alumina, or corundum in its crystalline form, as well as many other names, reflecting its widespread occurrence in nature and industry...

 layer which forms on the inside of the pipes complicates cleaning and leads to larger efficiency losses. In contrast, titanium
Titanium is a chemical element with the symbol Ti and atomic number 22. It has a low density and is a strong, lustrous, corrosion-resistant transition metal with a silver color....

 tubing allows biofouling to occur faster but cleaning is more effective than with aluminium.


The evaporator, turbine, and condenser operate in partial vacuum ranging from 3% to 1% of atmospheric pressure. The system must be carefully sealed to prevent in-leakage of atmospheric air that can degrade or shut down operation. In closed-cycle OTEC, the specific volume of low-pressure steam is very large compared to that of the pressurized working fluid. Components must have large flow areas to ensure steam velocities do not attain excessively high values.

Parasitic power consumption by exhaust compressor

An approach for reducing the exhaust compressor parasitic power loss
Parasitic loss
Parasitic loss is that which a parasite consumes from its host, for whom the loss may or may not be beneficial.- Parasitic loss in internal combustion engines :...

 is as follows. After most of the steam has been condensed by spout condensers, the non-condensible gas steam mixture is passed through a counter current region which increases the gas-steam reaction by a factor of five. The result is an 80% reduction in the exhaust pumping power requirements.

Cold air/warm water conversion

In winter in coastal Arctic
The Arctic is a region located at the northern-most part of the Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. The Arctic region consists of a vast, ice-covered ocean, surrounded by treeless permafrost...

 locations, seawater can be 40 °C (72 °F) warmer than ambient air temperature. Closed-cycle systems could exploit the air-water temperature difference. Eliminating seawater extraction pipes might make a system based on this concept less expensive than OTEC. This technology is due to H. Barjot, who suggested butane as cryogen, because of its freezing point of -0.5 C and its non-solubility in water. Assuming a level of efficiency of realistic 4 %, calculations show that the amount of energy generated with one cubic meter water at a temperature of 2 °C (35.6 °F) in a place with an air temperature of -22 C equals the amount of energy generated by letting this cubic meter water run through a hydroelectric plant of 4000 feet (1,200 m) height.

Barjot Polar Power Plants could be located on island in the polar region or designed as swimming barges or platforms attached to the ice cap
Ice cap
An ice cap is an ice mass that covers less than 50 000 km² of land area . Masses of ice covering more than 50 000 km² are termed an ice sheet....

. The weather station Myggbuka at Greenlands east coast for example, which is only 2,100 km away from Glasgow, detects monthly mean temperatures below -15 C during 6 winter months in the year.

See also

  • Deep lake water cooling
    Deep lake water cooling
    Deep lake water cooling uses cold water pumped from the bottom of a lake as a heat sink for climate control systems. Because heat pump efficiency improves as the heat sink gets colder, deep lake water cooling can reduce the electrical demands of large cooling systems where it is available...

  • Heat engine
    Heat engine
    In thermodynamics, a heat engine is a system that performs the conversion of heat or thermal energy to mechanical work. It does this by bringing a working substance from a high temperature state to a lower temperature state. A heat "source" generates thermal energy that brings the working substance...

  • Ocean engineering
    Offshore construction
    Offshore construction is the installation of structures and facilities in a marine environment, usually for the production and transmission of electricity, oil, gas and other resources....

  • Seawater air conditioning
    Seawater air conditioning
    Deep water source cooling or deep water air cooling is a form of air cooling for process and comfort space cooling which uses a renewable, large body of naturally cold water as a heat sink...

  • Osmotic power


  • Renewable Energy From The Ocean - A Guide To OTEC, William H. Avery, Chih Wu, Oxford University Press, 1994. Covers the OTEC work done at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory from 1970–1985 in conjunction with the Department of Energy and other firms.

External links

The Engineering Toolbox. for other types of ocean energy go to ((tidal energy))
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.