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First Commercial Scale OTEC Plant to be Built in China

By Brian Westenhaus | Wed, 01 May 2013 00:00 | 1

Lockheed Martin has announced that it is working with Reignwood Group to develop an Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) pilot power plant off the coast of southern China.  Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion is now a commercial product.  It’s the easiest access geothermal/solar energy available.

Lockheed Martin OTEC Process Block Diagram
Lockheed Martin OTEC Process Block Diagram. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.

Ocean thermal uses the ocean’s natural thermal gradient to generate power.  Where there is warm surface water and cold deep water, the temperature difference can be leveraged to drive a steam cycle that turns a turbine and produces power. Warm surface seawater passes through a heat exchanger, vaporizing a low boiling point working fluid to drive a turbine generator, producing electricity.

Related article: Lockheed Martin to Design 10MW OTEC Power Plant for Real Estate Group

Lockheed Martin Ocean thermal is a binary system – where the heat difference between two points is used for an energy source.  With the huge reservoir of ocean heat the process can serve as a baseload power generation system that produces a significant amount of renewable, non-polluting power, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Earlier this month a memorandum of agreement between the two companies was signed in Beijing for a 10-megawatt offshore plant, to be designed by Lockheed Martin.  The project will be the largest OTEC project developed to date, supplying 100 percent of the power needed for a green resort to be built by Reignwood Group. In addition, the agreement could lay the foundation for the development of several additional OTEC power plants ranging in size from 10 to 100 megawatts, for a potential multi-billion dollar value.

Dan Heller, vice president of new ventures for Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training said, “The benefits to generating power with OTEC are immense, and Lockheed Martin has been leading the way in advancing this technology for decades. Constructing a sea-based, multi-megawatt pilot OTEC power plant for Reignwood Group is the final step in making it an economic option to meet growing needs for clean, reliable energy.”

A commercial-scale OTEC plant will have the capability to power a small city. The energy can also be used for the cultivation of other crucial resources such as fresh-water production by flash evaporating the warm seawater and condensing the subsequent water vapor using cold seawater and producing energy carriers such as hydrogen and ammonia, which can be shipped to areas not close to OTEC resources.

Reignwood Group has several other green energy-related projects across a variety of industries and is currently developing two large-scale low-carbon resort communities, with others planned in key locations in China. Using Lockheed Martin’s OTEC technology to power a new resort will help the company to develop its first net-zero community.

Colin Liu, senior vice president of Reignwood Group said, “Our mission at Reignwood Group is to invest in low-carbon applications and solutions, integrating these new green technologies into a plan to promote sustainable development practices. Lockheed Martin’s OTEC technology offers a ground-breaking solution that will help us to achieve this mission.”

Once the proposed plant is developed and operational, the two companies plan to use the knowledge gained to improve the design of the additional commercial-scale plants, to be built over the next 10 years. Each 100-megawatt OTEC facility could produce the same amount of energy in a year as 1.3 million barrels of oil, decrease carbon emissions by half a million tons and provide a domestic energy source that is sustainable, reliable and secure. With oil trading near $100 a barrel, the fuel-savings from one plant could top $130 million per year.

Related article: Iran Abandons Chinese Help, to Build World’s Highest Hydroelectric Plant Alone

OTEC resources
OTEC Resource Map 2009 Lockheed Martin. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin composition, DOE data.

Lockheed Martin has the technology details still under wraps, likely a good choice.  They seem sure they can make a go of it and sell someone into paying for the rig.

Chances are it’s a sweetheart deal to allow monitoring and engineering access so the future designs can be updated.

The Polly Annas will soon be out.  But the reality is Lockheed Martin needs to support extremely high mass flow rates to counter the low thermodynamic efficiency.  It looks like they’re only working across a 20º C difference or 36º F.  It will be a huge installation.

The first one will likely not make money, but the market will be huge.  If the operating and maintenance costs are low OTEC over time would take a lot of pressure off other energy sources as well as reduce ocean heat – something the global warming crowd could cheer about.

By. Brian Westenhaus

Original source: Ocean Thermal Energy Goes Commercial

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  • SA Kiteman on May 02 2013 said:
    One can't help but wonder if this will tip the scales on an already teetering ocean conveyor system and bring on an ice age. Take that, global warming. ;)

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