by Dylan Tanner Intermatrix Ltd. U.K.
The aim of this project was to investigate the feasibility of Ocean Thermal Energy conversion (or OTEC) as a commercial technology for the production of energy and other uses. A secondary aim was to provide an up-to-date account of activity and progress in OTEC, with special emphasis on the United States, Japan and Taiwan. OTEC is a form of renewable energy which makes use of the temperature difference that exists between the surface ocean water and the water near the bottom. This difference approaches 25¢XC in tropical regions and can be utilised to drive a simple binary cycle turbine and generate net power. Additional benefits include fresh water and cool sea water, which in tropical regions has various uses. Development work on OTEC has been on-going, at a sporadic pace, for about a century. This work can be characterised as technology driven - that is it has been motivated by the search for technical solutions to the engineering problems associated with OTEC, with a lesser regard for the marketability of the product. The result is that a workable technology has now been developed, but it is expensive compared with other sources of electricity. A conclusion of this project that the viability of OTEC could be increased by a greater attention to the needs and conditions present in the intended markets. New energy technologies inherently face barriers in their acceptance by the energy industry, so it is important to ensure a realistic and commercial strategy is adopted in their development. Another conclusion of this thesis is that the most promising market for OTEC in the short term appears to be the Republic of China (Taiwan). The combination of geographic suitability recent environmental awareness, lack of natural energy resources, and economic prosperity make it an ideal candidate for OTEC development. It is hoped that this report will serve as a basis for future debate and also as a reference source with regards to OTEC and that some of the recommendations suggested will be considered when decisions regarding OTEC strategy are made.