Alternative Energy from the Ocean

Alternative Energy from the Ocean

In 1881, the French engineer Jacques D’Arsonval proposed Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). However, as of this writing, the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii is home to the world’s sole operational experimental OTEC plant. OTEC is a promising alternative energy source that requires far more funding and exploration than it now receives. The most significant barrier to overcome with OTEC adoption on a broad and practically relevant scale is cost. Because of the techniques now used to drive OTEC, it is difficult to get costs down to an acceptable level. Ocean thermal energy would be highly clean burning, emitting no pollutants into the atmosphere. However, because they would need to be built up with our current technologies, OTEC facilities would have the potential to disturb and possibly harm the local ecology.

OTEC is classified into three types.

As an intermediate fluid, “Closed Cycle OTEC” employs a low-boiling point liquid such as propane. The warm sea water is pumped into the reaction chamber by the OTEC plant, which boils the intermediate fluid. As a result, the vapor of the intermediate fluid pushes the turbine of the engine, generating energy. The vapor is then cooled by immersing it in cold sea water.

“Open Cycle OTEC” is similar to closed cycling, except that there is no intermediary fluid in the Open Cycle. In this OTEC arrangement, the turbine engine is powered by sea water. Under the restriction of a vacuum, warm sea water on the ocean’s surface is converted into a low-pressure vapor. The low-pressure vapor is emitted in a concentrated region and has enough power to operate the turbine. The deeper ocean’s cold waters are added to the vapor once it has generated enough electricity to cool it down and provide desalinated water for human consumption.

For the time being, “Hybrid Cycle OTEC” is merely a theory. It aims to define how we can best utilize the thermal energy of the ocean’s waters. The theory of Hybrid Cycling is divided into two sub-theories. The first involves generating electricity through closed cycling. This electricity is then utilized to generate the vacuum required for open cycling. The second component is the integration of two open cyclings, which produces twice as much desalinated, drinkable water as a single open cycle.

A closed cycle OTEC plant can be used for chemical treatment in addition to producing energy. OTEC facilities, both open and closed cycling, can also be used to pump up cold deep sea water, which can subsequently be used for refrigeration and air conditioning. Furthermore, during the moderate period when the plant is surrounded by sea water, the enclosed area can be used for mariculture and aquaculture projects such as fish farming. This alternative energy source definitely has the potential to provide a wide range of products and services.


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