Aug 082010
 
Early design for an Ocean Thermal Energy Conve...
Image via Wikipedia

Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa say that the Leeward side of Hawaiian Islands may be ideal for future ocean-based renewable energy plants that would use seawater from the oceans’ depths to drive massive heat engines and produce steady amounts of renewable energy.

The technology, referred to as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), is described in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, which is published by the American Institute of Physics (AIP).

It involves placing a heat engine between warm water collected at the ocean’s surface and cold water pumped from the deep ocean. Like a ball rolling downhill, heat flows from the warm reservoir to the cool one. The greater the temperature difference, the stronger the flow of heat that can be used to do useful work such as spinning a turbine and generating electricity.

The history of OTEC dates back more than a half century. However, the technology has never taken off — largely because of the relatively low cost of oil and other fossil fuels. But if there are any places on Earth where large OTEC facilities would be most cost competitive, it is where the ocean temperature differentials are the greatest.

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