Ocean Thermal Energy Ocean
OTEC could soon be used?
Part I : In 2012, what is the context?
Published in october 2012
Author : Mathieu LadouchTechnical Stuff
Robert Cohen, USA.
OTEC consultant and adviser to the company Lockheed Martin.
"My goal is to help achieve the maturation and commercialization of ocean thermal energy technology, which has the potential to become the largest global source of renewable energy..."
For over thirthy years, this MRE technology has been sitting in the shadows of oil and petrol. With a low efficiency associated to high costs of design/installation, OTEC was not competitive. With increases in oil energy operation costs, current innovation and the development of a positive context for MRE, could OTEC finally be commercialized?
To learn more about how this technology works, click here
Mr RC, OTEC consultant and adviser to the company Lockheed Martin, accepted to answer METimes' questions and describes the context in which this technology is developing internationally.
The interview will be in three parts and I invite you to subscribe to our newsletter to receive a notification.
METimes: In your opinion, could OTEC soon be commercialized?
RC : Ocean thermal is the only remaining vast, untapped source of renewable energy, and is now ripe for commercialization. The near market-readiness of this technology is largely attributable to the remarkable ocean-engineering innovations and successful experience of the offshore oil industry during the past thirty years in developing, investing in, and introducing mammoth floating platforms. That achievement has inadvertently satisfied ocean thermal’s key operational requirement, for a large, stable, reliable ocean platform capable of operating in storms, hurricanes and typhoons.
Consequently, adaptations of those offshore-ocean-platform designs can be spun-off to supply the proven ocean-engineering framework on which to mount the specialized ocean thermal plant and plantship heat exchangers, turbomachinery, cold water pipe (CWP) system, and other components and subsystems.Those offshore engineering achievements have greatly reduced the real and perceived risks of investing in ocean thermal plants.
Most of the required ocean thermal sub-systems and components are now market-ready, having reached technological maturity and availability. However, one technological challenge unique to offshore ocean thermal power systems remains:
The development of technically and economically viable offshore technology needed to design, deploy, and operate survivable large-diameter, commercial-scale CWPs (cold water pipe approx. length 1000 meters; approx. diameter 10 meters)
Ref. How the technology works.
METimes : Which industry for example is working to tackle this CWP problem?
RC : The Lockheed Martin (LM) company began rebuilding its ocean thermal engineerring team in 2007. That year the team began developing CWP technology for commercial ocean thermal plants, and during the next four years has made considerable progress toward that goal. LM’s impressive 2011 report to DOE on that progress, entitled “OTEC Advanced Composite Cold Water Pipe: Final Technical Report”, can be downloaded from a DOE Web site. Completion of engineering development of commercial-size CWP technology can be conducted in parallel with successful demonstration of an offshore, utility-scale, multi-megawatt ocean thermal pilot plant.
Thus the time is ripe for addressing and surmounting an initial two-step technical, economic, and financing hurdle:
Step 1) Obtaining data from the successful operation of a multi-megawatt, utility-scale demonstration ocean thermal power plant, in parallel with additional CWP development, which can be completed by year 2016;
Step 2) Using those data as a basis for designing and operating the first-of-a-kind commercial plant (ca. 100 MWe) by year 2020, whose electricity is expected to be cost-competitive with oil-derived electricity at many island locations.
With production-economies, innovation, and experience from subsequent commercial power plants, there will be continuing decreases in plant capital cost.
METimes : What are the french advancements with this technology?
RC : The concept of deriving energy from ocean thermal gradients was a French idea, suggested in 1881 by Jacques d’Arsonval, and French engineers have been active in developing the requisite technology, notably in the 1930s (Georges Claude), and resumed in the 1970s by IFREMER, later continued by DCNS.
In recent years, DCNS has been conducting feasibility studies for ocean thermal power plants off Réunion, Tahiti, and Martinique, and has been performing land-based testing on Réunion island of a 2.5 MWe ocean thermal power-module, preparatory to constructing a 10 MWe ocean thermal pilot plant that was originally intended for operation off Réunion.
DCNS later shifted the location of its proposed 10 MWe offshore ocean thermal pilot plant from Réunion to Martinique, where it is scheduled to commence operation around 2015. Assuming that this project is selected as one of thirty renewable energy projects being funded by a multi-billion-euro initiative sponsored by the European Commission (EC), half the cost of this pilot plant project will be financed by the EC.
A significant question -- to which I am eagerly seeking to find an answer -- is whether France and DCNS, once they have successfully demonstrated their proposed pilot plant, are contemplating developing commercial offshore ocean thermal plants. I am also eager to obtain information on how their pilot-plant project is progressing.
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July 2012//Mathieu Ladouch
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