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Alternative Energy From The Ocean
By: Warren Peters
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) was conceived of by the French engineer Jacques D'Arsonval in 1881. However, at the
time of this writing the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii is home to the only operating experimental OTEC plant on the face of
the earth. OTEC is a potential alternative energy source that needs to be funded and explored much more than it presently is.
The great hurdle to get over with OTEC implementation on a wide and practically useful level is cost. It is difficult to get the costs
down to a reasonable level because of the processes presently utilized to drive OTEC. Ocean thermal energy would be very clean
burning and not add pollutants into the air. However, as it presently would need to be set up with our current technologies, OTEC
plants would have the capacity for disrupting and perhaps damaging the local environment.
There are three kinds of OTEC.
Closed Cycle OTEC uses a low-boiling point liquid such as, for example, propane to act as an intermediate fluid. The OTEC plant
pumps the warm sea water into the reaction chamber and boils the intermediate fluid. This results in the intermediate fluid's vapor
pushing the turbine of the engine, which thus generates electricity. The vapor is then cooled down by putting in cold sea water.
Open Cycle OTEC is not that different from closed cycling, except in the Open Cycle there is no intermediate fluid. The sea water
itself is the driver of the turbine engine in this OTEC format. Warm sea water found on the surface of the ocean is turned into a low-
pressure vapor under the constraint of a vacuum. The low-pressure vapor is released in a focused area and it has the power to
drive the turbine. To cool down the vapor and create desalinated water for human consumption, the deeper ocean's cold waters a