HONOLULU, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Researchers in Hawaii say the islands may be an ideal spot for future ocean-based energy plants using seawater to produce sustained amounts of renewable energy.
A technology called Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion uses seawater to drive massive heat engines, an article in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy says.
In an OTEC system, a heat engine is placed between warm water from the ocean’s surface and cold water pumped from the deep ocean. Heat flowing from the warm water reservoir to the cool one drives the heat engine to spin a turbine and generate electricity, the article says.
The technology is almost 50 years old but cannot compete with the relatively low cost of fossil fuel energy.
An OTEC plant would be the most cost-competitive in places on Earth where ocean temperature differentials are the greatest — which includes the western sides of the Hawaiian Islands, a University of Hawaii researcher says.
An OTEC plant in this location could produce up to 15 percent more power than in other locations, Gerard Nihous says.
Such an improvement could help overcome one of the biggest hurdles to bringing the technology to the mainstream, he says.
“Testing that was done in the 1980s clearly demonstrates the feasibility of this technology,” Nihous says. “Now it’s just a matter of paying for it.”
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