OCEAN THERMAL ENERGY
OTEC, or Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, is an energy technology that converts solar radiation to electric power. 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. 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 little impact on the surrounding environment.
The distinctive feature of OTEC energy systems is that the end products include not only energy in the form of electricity, but several other synergistic products. The principle design objective was to minimize plan cost by minimizing plant mass, and taking maximum advantage of minimal warm and cold water flows. Power is
Converted to high voltage DC, and is cabled to shore for conversion to AC and integration into the local power distribution network.
The oceans are thus a vast renewable resource, with the potential to help us produce billions of watts of electric power.
OCEAN THERMAL ENERGY CONVERSION
Oceans cover more than 70% of Earth's surface, making them the world's largest solar collectors. The sun's heat warms the surface water a lot more than the deep ocean water, and this temperature difference creates thermal energy. Just a small portion of the heat trapped in the ocean could power the world.
I. INTRODUCTION TO OCEAN ENERGY:
Most people have been witness to the awesome power of the world's oceans. For least a thousand years, scientists and inventors have watched ocean waves explode against coastal shores, felt the pull of ocean tides, and dreamed of harnessing these forces. But it's only been in the last century that scientists and engineers have begun to look at capturing ocean energy to make electricity.
The ocean can produce two types of energy: thermal energy from the sun's heat, and mechanical energy from the tides and waves. Ocean thermal energy is used for many applications, including electricity generation. Ocean mechanical energy is quite different from ocean thermal energy. Even though the sun affects all ocean activity, tides are driven primarily by the gravitational pull of the moon, and waves are driven primarily by the winds. As a result, tides and waves are sporadic sources of energy, while ocean thermal energy is fairly constant. Also, unlike thermal energy, the electricity conversion of both tidal and wave energy usually involves mechanical devices.
II.OCEANTHERMAL ENERGY CONVERSION:
OTEC or Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is a process which utilizes the heat energy stored in the tropical ocean. The world's oceans serve as a huge collector of heat energy. OTEC plants utilize the difference in temperature between warm surface sea water and cold deep sea water to produce electricity.
Thermal energy conversion is an energy technology that converts solar radiation to electric power. 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. As long as the temperature between the warm surface water and the cold deep water differs by about 20°C, an OTEC system can produce a significant amount of power. The oceans are thus a vast renewable resource, with the potential to help us produce billions of watts of electric power. This potential is estimated to be about 1013 watts of base load power generation, according to some experts. The cold, deep seawater used in the OTEC process is also rich in nutrients, and it can be used to culture both marine organisms and plant life near the shore or on land. OTEC produce steady, base-load electricity, fresh water, and air-conditioning options.
OTEC requires a temperature difference of about 36 deg F (20 deg C). This temperature difference exists between the surface and deep seawater year round throughout the tropical regions of the world. To produce electricity, we either use a working fluid with a low boiling point (e.g. ammonia) or warm surface sea water, or turn it to vapor by heating it up with warm sea water (ammonia) or de-pressurizing warm seawater. The pressure of the expanding vapor turns a turbine and produces electricity.
Plant Design and Location
Commercial OTEC facilities can be built on
• Land or near the shore
• Platforms attached to the shelf
• Moorings or free-floating facilities in deep ocean water
Land-based and near-shore are more advantageous than the other two. OTEC plants can be mounted to the continental shelf at depths up to 100 meters, however may make shelf-mounted facilities less desirable and more expensive than their land-based counterparts. Floating OTEC facilities with a large power capacity, but has the difficulty of stabilizing and of mooring it in very deep water may create problems with power delivery.
Commercial ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) plants must be located in an environment that is stable enough for efficient system operation. The temperature of the warm surface seawater must differ about 20°C (36°F) from that of the cold deep water that is no more than about 1000 meters (3280 feet) below the surface. The natural ocean thermal gradient necessary for OTEC operation is generally found between latitudes 20 deg N and 20 deg S.
III. TYPES OF ELECTRICITY CONVERSION SYSTEMS
There are three types of electricity conversion systems: closed-cycle, open-cycle, and hybrid. Closed-cycle systems use the ocean's warm surface water to vaporize a working fluid, which has a low-boiling point, such as ammonia. The vapor expands and turns a turbine. The turbine then activates a generator to produce electricity. Open-cycle systems actually boil the seawater by operating at low pressures. This produces steam that passes through a turbine/generator. And hybrid systems combine both closed-cycle and open-cycle systems.
In the closed-cycle OTEC system, warm sea water vaporizes a working fluid, such as ammonia, flowing through a heat exchanger (evaporator). The vapor expands at moderate pressures and turns a turbine coupled to a generator that produces electricity. The vapor is then condensed in heat exchanger (condenser) using cold seawater pumped from the ocean's depths through a cold-water pipe. The condensed working fluid is pumped back to the evaporator to repeat the cycle. The working fluid remains in a closed system and circulates continuously.
The heat exchangers (evaporator and condenser) are a large and crucial component of the closed-cycle power plant, both in terms of actual size and capital cost. Much of the work has been performed on alternative materials for OTEC heat exchangers, leading to the recent conclusion that inexpensive aluminum alloys may work as well as much more expensive titanium for this purpose.
The open cycle consists of the following steps: (i) flash evaporation of a fraction of the warm seawater by reduction of pressure below the saturation value corresponding to its temperature (ii) expansion of the vapor through a turbine to generate power; (iii) heat transfer to the cold seawater thermal sink resulting in condensation of the working fluid; and (iv) compression of the non-condensable gases (air released from the seawater streams at the low operating pressure) to pressures required to discharge them from the system.
Hybrid OTEC System
Another option is to combine the two processes together into an open-cycle/closed-cycle hybrid, which might produce both electricity and desalinated water more efficiently. In a hybrid OTEC system, warm seawater might enter a vacuum where it would be flash-evaporated into steam, in a similar fashion to the open-cycle evaporation process.
The steam or the warm water might then pass through an evaporator to vaporize the working fluid of a closed-cycle loop. The vaporized fluid would then drive a turbine to produce electricity, while the steam would be condensed within the condenser to produced desalinated water
IV. OTHER TECHNOLOGIES
OTEC offers one of the most benign power production technologies, since the handling of hazardous substances is limited to the working fluid (e.g., ammonia), and no noxious by-products are generated. OTEC requires drawing sea water from the mixed layer and the deep ocean and returning it to the mixed layer, close to the thermo cline, which could be accomplished with minimal environmental impact. Aquaculture is perhaps the most well-known byproduct of OTEC. Cold-water delicacies, such as salmon and lobster, thrive in the nutrient-rich, deep, seawater from the OTEC process. Micro algae such as Spirulina, a health food supplement, also can be cultivated in the deep-ocean water.
Wave energy systems also cannot compete economically with traditional power sources. However, the costs to produce wave energy are coming down, Once built, however, wave energy systems (and other ocean energy plants) should have low operation and maintenance costs because the fuel they use sea water is free. Like tidal power plants, OTEC power plants require substantial capital investment upfront. Another factor hindering the commercialization of OTEC is that there are only a few hundred land-based sites in the tropics where deep-ocean water is close enough to shore to make OTEC plants feasible.
V. BENEFITS OF OTEC
We can measure the value of an ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) plant and continued OTEC development by both its economic and no economic benefits. OTEC’s economic benefits include the:
• Helps produce fuels such as hydrogen, ammonia, and methanol
• Produces base load electrical energy
• Produces desalinated water for industrial, agricultural, and residential uses
• Is a resource for on-shore and near-shore Mari culture operations
• Provides air-conditioning for buildings
• Provides moderate-temperature refrigeration
• Has significant potential to provide clean, cost-effective electricity for the future.
• Fresh Water-- up to 5 liters for every 1000 liters of cold seawater.
• Food--Aquaculture products can be cultivated in discharge water.
OTEC’s no economic benefits, which help us achieve global environmental goals, include these:
• Promotes competitiveness and international trade
• Enhances energy independence and energy security
• Promotes international sociopolitical stability
• Has potential to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions resulting from burning fossil fuels.
In small island nations, the benefits of OTEC include self-sufficiency, minimal environmental impacts, and improved sanitation and nutrition, which result from the greater availability of desalinated water and Mari culture products.
OTEC plant construction and operation may affect commercial and recreational fishing. Fish will be attracted to the plant, potentially increasing fishing in the area. Enhanced productivity due to redistribution of nutrients may improve fishing. However, the losses of inshore fish eggs and larvae, as well as juvenile fish, due to impingement and entrainment and to the discharge of biocides may reduce fish populations. The net effect of OTEC operation on aquatic life will depend on the balance achieved between these two effects. Other risks associated with the OTEC power system are the safety issues associated with steam electric power generation plants: electrical hazards, rotating machinery, use of compressed gases, heavy material-handling equipment, and shop and maintenance hazards.
Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) systems have many applications or uses. OTEC can be used to generate electricity, desalinate water, support deep-water Mari culture, and provide refrigeration and air-conditioning as well as aid in crop growth and mineral extraction. These complementary products make OTEC systems attractive to industry and island communities even if the price of oil remains low.
The electricity produced by the system can be delivered to a utility grid or used to manufacture methanol, hydrogen, refined metals, ammonia, and similar products. The cold [5°C (41ºF)] seawater made available by an OTEC system creates an opportunity to provide large amounts of cooling to operations that are related to or close to the plant. Likewise, the low-cost refrigeration provided by the cold seawater can be used to upgrade or maintain the quality of indigenous fish, which tend to deteriorate quickly in warm tropical regions. The developments in other technologies (especially materials sciences) were improving the viability of mineral extraction processes that employ ocean energy.
The economics of energy production today have delayed the financing of a permanent, continuously operating OTEC plant. However, OTEC is very promising as an alternative energy resource for tropical island communities that rely heavily on imported fuel. OTEC plants in these markets could provide islanders with much-needed power, as well as desalinated water and a variety of Mari culture products.
In considering the economics of OTEC, it is appropriate to determine if multiple-product systems, e.g., electricity, desalinated water, Mari culture, and air conditioning (AC) systems yield higher value by, for example, decreasing the equivalent cost of electricity. Because Mari culture operations, as in the case of AC systems, can only use a relatively minute amount of the seawater required for the thermal plants they should be evaluated independent of OTEC. It is recommended that OTEC be considered for its potential impact in the production of electricity and desalinated water and that Mari culture and AC systems, based in the use of deep ocean water, be considered decoupled from OTEC. Comparing production costs of electricity and desalinated water can identify scenarios under which OTEC should be economical, relative to conventional technologies.
World’s only Open cycle OTEC System:
Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR) has been a leader in the continuing effort to extract energy from the ocean and other renewable systems. PICHTR has developed sustainable systems through its Engineering Systems group including the design, construction, and operation of the world's only Open Cycle Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OC-OTEC) system located at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) at Keyhole Point on the Big Island of Hawaii.
OTEC has tremendous potential to supply the world’s energy. It is estimated that, in an annual basis, the amount solar energy absorbed by the oceans is equivalent to at least 4000 times the amount presently consumed by humans. For an OTEC efficiency of 3 percent, in converting ocean thermal energy to electricity, we would need less than 1 percent of this renewable energy to satisfy all of our desires for energy.
OTEC offers one of the most compassionate power production technologies, since the handling of hazardous substances is limited to the working fluid (e.g., ammonia), and no noxious by-products are generated. Through adequate planning and coordination with the local community, recreational assets near an OTEC site may be enhanced. OTEC is capital-intensive, and the very first plants will most probably be small requiring a substantial capital investment. Given the relatively low cost of crude oil and of fossil fuels in general, the development of OTEC technologies is likely to be promoted by government agencies. Conventional power plants pollute the environment more than an OTEC plant would and, as long as the sun heats the oceans, the fuel for OTEC is unlimited and free.
Non-Conventional Energy Sources – G.D.Rai
Avery, WilliamH. And Chih Wu. - Renewable Energy from the Ocean.
C.L. Wadhwa – Power Systems