by Philip Chow, T. Y. Lin International - U.S.A.; and Karl Pan, Industrial Technology and Research Institute - R.O.C.
Taiwan has compelling reasons to develop its own ocean thermal resources into a major energy source. To mention a couple: (1) it is richly endowed with OTEC resources, having access to the 4¢XC cold water of the Pacific Ocean within a few kilometers from shore, and to the warm water of the Kuroshio Current from the direction of the Philippine Seas that flows past the east coast of Taiwan; (2) the deterioration of the environment in the big cities of Taiwan that usually comes with rapid economic growth. It is now a serious problem and is getting worse with time, inspite of the vigorous enactment of environment protection laws.
Unfortunately, the right solution to a problem is not always the easiest to implement. OTEC is such a case in point. Although commercial OTEC plants would pay the investor handsomely, since it runs on "free" fuel, it is also capital-intensive, yielding little short-term gains. It becomes attractive only if looked upon as a long-term investment, one that benefits the future generations rather than the present, both in financial terms for the investor and in terms of the economic and environmental fall-outs that benefit the society as a whole.
This paper describes the dedicated effort Taiwan has made bringing OTEC energy to the island in the past, and its higher expectations of OTEC today. The OTEC program, as presently conceived, envisions the goal of producing at least 32,000 MWe net power by saturating the territorial waters along Taiwan's east coast with eight 400 MWe floating OTEC plants. From engineering feasibility viewpoint, the biggest hurdle would be the quantum escalation of the size of an OTEC plant, from the largest attempted so far that is presently represented by the 5MWe land-based commercial plant now being planned for the Republic of Marshall Island, to a floating that produces 400 MWe net power. It is, however, not an insurmountable developmental problem, the success of which being dependent on controllable factors, not technological break-throughs.