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What is Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion. The oceans cover a little more than 70 percent of the Earth's surface. This makes them the world's largest solar energy collector and energy storage system.

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what is ocean thermal energy conversion
What is Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion
  • The oceans cover a little more than 70 percent of the Earth's surface. This makes them the world's largest solar energy collector and energy storage system.
  • On an average day, 60 million square kilometers (23 million square miles) of tropical seas absorb an amount of solar radiation equal in heat content to about 250 billion barrels of oil.
  • If less than one-tenth of one percent of this stored solar energy could be converted into electric power, it would supply more than 20 times the total amount of electricity consumed in the United States on any given day.
there are three ways the otec method can produce electricity
There are three ways the OTEC method can produce electricity.
  • Closed-Cycle:

This system relies on low-boiling point fluids such as ammonia. The warm ocean water is used to heat up and boil the ammonia, which will turn a turbine. The turbine then produces electricity.

open cycle
  • This system relies on a low-pressure environment to actually boil the ocean water and create steam. When warm ocean water moves into a low-pressure environment it will boil. The steam is almost pure water as the salts and other impurities are left behind. The steam then recirculates to deeper and colder areas of the ocean and condenses back to water. Just like the ammonia gas, the steam will turn a turbine.
hybrid system
Hybrid System:
  • This system simply combines both Closed and Open Cycle systems.
ocean thermal energy conversion
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion
  • The ocean thermal energy can be harnessed by means of a thermodynamic cycle, which uses the temperature gradient between the cold deep waters and the warm surface waters. It is estimated that, the amount of solar energy absorbed annually by the oceans is equivalent to 4000 times the world energy demand in the same period
The main problem with this renewable energy is the necessity of a temperature gradient higher or equal to 20ºC, between the hot and cold reservoir. The higher the temperature difference, the better efficiency it will have.
  • This requirement is only fulfilled in tropical and equatorial zones during the whole year.
The OTEC systems efficiency is not quite high because of the little temperature difference used in the thermodynamic cycles. Although the ideal energy conversion using 26 ºC and 4 ºC warm and cold seawaters is 8%, due to several losses final 3-4% efficiency is get
  • Damaging environmental effects are minimized if the cold water is discharged to the ocean at enough depth.
  • Highly available energy resources.
  • The small land based OTEC plants need kilometres of piping to move a high volume of cold water fro deep ocean. Its cost could be up to the 75 % of the total power plant costs. Therefore, researches show that power plants with a rated power lower than 50 MW can not compete with other energy sources.
  • As an example, a 50 MW power plant would require a 3 km long pipe with a 8 m diameter to pump 150 m3/s of cold water • The suitable locations to harness this kind of energy are reduced to equatorial and tropical zones.
  • Low thermal efficiency due to the low temperature difference between the cold and hot reservoir (around 22 ºC).
  • Although floating OTEC plants could apparently be as olution, maintenance and repair costs would also be high.
  • Floating plants and piping of land based plants must withstand high stresses during storms.