Date of Award
Engineering and Applied Science
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is a renewable energy technology that has to overcome several key challenges before achieving its ultimate goal of producing baseload power on a commercial scale. The economic challenge of deploying an OTEC plant remains the biggest barrier to implementation. Although small OTEC demonstration plants and recent advances in subsystem technologies have proven OTEC’s technical merits, the process still lacks the crucial operational data required to justify investments in large commercial OTEC plants on the order of 50-100 megawatts of net electrical power (MWe-net). A pre-commercial pilot plant on the order of 5-10 MWe-net is required for an OTEC market to evolve. In addition to the economic challenge,OTEC plants have potential for adverse environmental impacts from redistribution of nutrients and residual chemicals in the discharge plume.
Although long-term operational records are not available for commercial sizeOTEC plants, synergistic operational data can be leveraged from the desalination industry to improve the potential for OTEC commercialization. Large capacity desalination plants primarily use membranes or thermal evaporator tubes to transform enormous amounts of seawater into freshwater. Thermal desalination plants in particular possess many of the same technical, economic, and environmental traits as a commercial scale OTEC plant. Substantial long-term economic data and environmental impact results are now widely available since commercial desalination began in the 1950s. Analysis of this data indicates that the evolution of the desalination industry could be akin to the potential future advancement of OTEC. Furthermore, certain scenarios exist where a combined OTEC-desalination plant provides a new opportunity for commercial plants. This paper seeks to utilize operational data from the desalination industry as a progressive approach towards OTEC commercialization.
Eller, Michael R., "Utilizing Economic and Environmental Data from the Desalination Industry as a Progressive Approach to Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) Commercialization" (2013). University of New Orleans Theses and Dissertations. 1733.