Ocean thermal-energy conversion gathers steam

OE Staff

June 1, 2015

Against a backdrop of growing global activity, ocean thermal-energy conversion (OTEC) is increasingly attracting investment, with work underway to develop technical specifications.

Martin Brown, convenor of the International Electrotechnical Commission team charged with developing these outlines of technical specifications for land-based, shelf and floating OTEC systems, says the specifications will serve to reassure potential investors, aid the due diligence process and give developers guidance on how to proceed with this technology.

The various types of OTEC systems, which are particularly useful for island nations and are well suited to tropical climates, use the temperature difference between warm surface water and cooler deeper water to generate electricity.

“In essence you’re making use of the oceans themselves as solar collectors,” Brown says. “It is a huge resource, a major source of base-load 365-day renewable power.”

In particular, he says technological advances around floating production systems in the oil and gas industry during the past 15 years, such as in mooring systems and risers, along with the sector’s strong capability, will prove useful for the development of floating OTEC systems.

Current international activity includes an operational system in the Okinawa Prefecture in Japan, plus Akuo Energy and DCNS’ joint NEMO project, which was awarded €72 million in funding from the EU’s NER 300 program for the development of an offshore pilot OTEC plant in Martinique.

“These technical specifications will help to ensure more projects get approval. Quite a lot of investment is happening with OTEC around the world…time is very much moving forward for developments.”