Martin G. Brown, IOA Editorial Committee Member
It struck me, while attending the IOA ¡¦ 97 Conference in Singapore, that all the speakers were presenting to an audience which was already converted to the real potential of OTEC/DOWA. There was a complete absence of companies such as Shell, BP, Exxon, Power and Water Utilities, Venture Capitalists, etc. Yet these types of organizations have access to the capital required to move OTEC/DOWA into the market place.
Because most IOA members are OTEC specialists, we tend to forget that the vast majority of the general public, including politicians, have never heard about OTEC. Even those who vaguely understand OTEC seem to think it is a complicated process that is nowhere near being economic. There is no appreciation that OTEC represents a mammoth multiple product renewable energy source capable of operation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In addition, the basic simplicity of the technology is rarely appreciated? A fridge cycle running in reverse is scarcely taxing the limits of almost twenty first century man.
Fortunately the general public seems to have an intrinsic understanding for the need to develop environmentally friendly sustainable energy supplies. Most people want to leave an unpolluted world to their children. Hence what is needed is a mechanism for educating the citizens of the world about OTEC/DOWA. With public support it is much easier to obtain project funding from both state and private sources. Hence the key factor for progressing OTEC is publicity, publicity and yet more publicity. Obviously technical and commercial factors are relevant. However, sufficient work has been undertaken to prove that systems can be made to work. Volume production will bring down costs; money is needed to get pilot plants operational now.
How then can publicity be improved? Most media organizations would like to hear about innovative new projects. The environmentally friendly nature of OTEC/DOWA combined with its long history makes it an interesting topic for magazine articles and TV documentaries. What is needed is a clear and colorful explanation of the technology perhaps supported by a promotional video. Once a definite project has been identified approaches could also be made to international news organizations such as CNN (Cable Network News) or the BBC World Service.
Additional publicity could be gained by increasing the size of IOA Newsletter mailing list. Members could suggest the names of executives, entrepreneurs and politicians whom are likely to be interested in the technology.
Environmental problems are frequently featured by the media. If whenever this happens, an IOA member were to write to a magazine/newspaper editor or TV program maker to stress the potential of OTEC/DOWA, a ground swell of public opinion off the drawing board. Once successful operational experience is available, commercial investment in OTEC is pretty well assured.