ESMAP BBL: Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC)

December 18, 2013


An enormous supply of solar energy is stored as thermal energy in the ocean's top layer. By harnessing ocean thermal gradients in the upper layers of the tropical oceans, Ocean Thermal energy conversion (OTEC) has the potential to generate base load power that could be an integral part of a utility’s demand management system and become an important renewable energy solution for island nations in tropical and subtropical regions of the world.


OTEC uses the temperature difference between cooler deep and warmer surface ocean waters to run a heat engine and produce electricity. In addition this technology can be used to generate other products such as potable water, hydrogen and ammonia. Early attempts to develop OTEC technology started in the 1880s in France, but the technical feasibility of this technology was not successfully demonstrated till the early 70s. Since then, several small-scale demonstration plants in Japan, USA (Hawai) and India have been built and operated with relative success. Recent advances in composited materials and deep water platforms design could facilitate the development of price-competitive medium and large commercial projects in the next decade.


Attendees learned about the history and current status of this technology, its economics and the potential replicability among developing countries clients (mainly islands). The presentation  focused on the fundamentals of OTEC technology, environmental implications and recent design solutions, lessons learned from pre-development stage projects as well as global market challenges and opportunities for OTEC.


Participants also learned about OTEC’s nonprofit sponsorThe Abell Foundationand its triple bottom line focus. The Abell Foundation is supporting OTEC technology since 2000. In 2001, Abell established a limited liability company with the mission of bringing OTEC to commercialization in developed and emerging markets. The company recently became OTEC International LLC (OTI).


The BBL was chaired and led by Charles Feinstein, Sector Manager, Water and Energy (EASWE), The World Bank with an introduction from Silvia Martinez Romero, Senior Renewable Energy Specialist, The World Bank. Our guest speakers were from OTEC International LLC., Barry R. Cole, Executive VP and Director of Technology Development, and Eileen M. O'Rourke, Chief Operating Officer.


View presentation: Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Development Update, December 2013.



Contact: Almudena Mateos Merino


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