A power plant that can harvest energy from differences in ocean temperatures is planned just off the coast of a Chinese resort. Set to be the world’s largest, the 10-megawatt OTEC (ocean thermal energy conversion) facility could pave the way for similar plants all over the world, helping meet the increasing need for reliable renewable energy. The plant is planned by Lockheed Martin Corp. and China’s Reignwood Group.
Lockheed Martin helped to build the world’s first successful floating OTEC system in the 1970s. The new plant will provide power for the Reignwood resort , along with clean drinking water and hydrogen for use in electric vehicles. Despite all of these abilities, there are currently no commercial-scale OTEC plants in operation.
How do OTEC plants work? Warm surface seawater is pumped through a heat exchanger to vaporize a fluid with a low boiling point, like ammonia. As the vapor expands, it drives a turbine to generate electricity. Cold seawater is used to condense the vapor so it can be sent back through the system. Because tropical regions have a greater temperature difference between shallow and deep waters, they’re considered the only viable locations for OPEC plants. Head to Gizmag for more details on the process.