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Chapter 8

OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion)


 OTEC, or Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, is an

energy technology that converts solar radiation to electric
 OTEC systems use the ocean's natural thermal gradient-
the fact that the ocean's layers of water have different
temperatures-to drive a power-producing cycle.
 Mainly used in equatorial waters where temperature
gradient is greatest.

How Does it Work

 Carnot Efficiency (T1-T2)/T1: in transferring heat to do work,

the greater the spread in temperature between the heat
source and the heat sink, greater the efficiency of the
energy conversion.
 As long as the temperature between the warm surface
water and the cold deep water differs by about 20°C (36°F),
an OTEC system can produce a significant amount of
power with a maximum Carnot Efficiency of about 6.7%.


Jacques Arsene d’Arsonval

 1881- Jacques Arsene d’Arsonval, French physicist, proposed
tapping the thermal energy of the ocean.
 1930- Georges Claude, d’Arsonval’s student, built the 1st OTEC
plant in Cuba.
 1935- Claude constructed another plant aboard a 10,000 ton
cargo vessel off the coast of Brazil.
 Weather & waves destroyed both the plants before they could
become net power generators.
 1956- French scientists designed another OTEC plant for
Abidjan, Ivory Coast, West Africa.
 The plant was never completed due to reduced energy
costs. Large amounts of cheap oil became available in the
 1962- J. Hilbert Anderson & James H. Anderson, Jr. started
designing a cycle that focused on developing new, more
efficient component design.
 1967- patented new "closed cycle" design.
 1970- Tokyo Electric Power Company successfully built & deployed a
120 kW closed-cycle OTEC plant on the island of Nauru.
 1981- Became operational & produced about 120 kW of electricity .
 90 kW was used to power the plant & the remaining electricity used
to power a school & several other places on Nauru.
 Set a world record for power output from an OTEC system where the
power was sent to a real power grid.

 1993: An open-cycle OTEC plant at Keahole Point, Hawaii,
produced 50 kW of electricity during a net power-producing
 This broke the record of 30 kW set by a Japanese system in
 Today, scientists are developing new, cost-effective, state-of-
the-art turbines for open-cycle OTEC systems, experimenting
with anti corroding Titanium and plastics as rotor material.

Open Cycle OTEC Power Plant

 Open-cycle OTEC uses the tropical oceans' warm surface

water to make electricity.
 When warm seawater is placed in a low-pressure
container, it boils.
 The expanding steam drives a low-pressure turbine
attached to an electrical generator.
 The steam, which has left its salt behind in the low-
pressure container, is almost pure fresh water.
 It is condensed back into a liquid by exposing it to cold
temperatures from deep-ocean water.
Open Cycle OTEC Power Plant

Closed Cycle OTEC Power Plant

 Closed-cycle systems use fluid with a low-boiling point,

such as ammonia, to rotate a turbine to generate electricity.
 Warm surface seawater is pumped through a heat
exchanger where the low-boiling-point fluid is vaporized.
 The expanding vapor turns the turbo-generator.
 Then, cold, deep seawater-pumped through a second heat
exchanger-condenses the vapor back into a liquid, which is
then recycled through the system.

Closed Cycle OTEC Power Plant

Closed Cycle OTEC Power Plant

Hybrid Cycle OTEC Power Plant

 Hybrid systems combine the features of both the

closed-cycle and open-cycle systems.
 In a hybrid system, warm seawater enters a vacuum
chamber where it is flash-evaporated into steam, similar
to the open-cycle evaporation process.
 The steam vaporizes a low-boiling-point fluid (in a
closed-cycle loop) that drives a turbine to produces

Advantages of OTEC

 Extremely benign impact on environment.

 No dependency on oil.
 Minimal maintenance costs compared to conventional
power production plants.
 Open cycle OTEC systems can produce desalinated
water which is very important in third-world countries.

Limitations of OTEC
 Low thermal efficiency due to small temperature gradient
between heat sink and source.
 OTEC technology is only ideally suitable in equatorial
 Only moderate power outputs are available.
 Currently this technology is not as monetarily feasible as
conventional power production plants.
 The manufacturing and installation of the extremely long
cold water pipes is extremely time consuming and costly.
 Non-Conventional Energy Resources by John B. H. Khan
 Non-Conventional Energy Resources by S. Hasan Saeed and D.K. Sharma
 Non-Conventional Energy Resources by G.D. Rai

Thank you