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TECHNICAL BRIEFS

An Order-of-Magnitude Estimate of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Resources

[+] Author and Article Information
Gérard C. Nihous

Hawaii Natural Energy Institute,  University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI 96822

Worldwide electrical power consumption, which represents, for the most part, secondary energy from power plants using fossil fuels, is projected to grow from 1.5 TW in 2001 to 2.7 TW in 2025. Installed capacity for electricity production was 3.5 TW in 2002 (http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/txt/ptb1117.html).

J. Energy Resour. Technol 127(4), 328-333 (Apr 05, 2005) (6 pages) doi:10.1115/1.1949624 History: Received October 06, 2004; Revised April 05, 2005

Worldwide power resources that could be extracted from the steady-state operation of ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) plants are estimated using a simple model. This order-of-magnitude analysis indicates that about 3×109kW (3 TW) may be available, at most. This value is much smaller than estimates currently suggested in the technical literature. It reflects the scale of the perturbation caused by massive OTEC seawater flow rates on the thermal structure of the ocean. Not surprisingly, maximum OTEC power nearly corresponds to deep cold seawater flow rates of the order of the average abyssal upwelling representative of the global thermohaline circulation.

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Copyright © 2005 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figures

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Figure 1

Recent and projected world power demand (http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/excel/figure_2data.xls)

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Figure 2

Illustration of standard OTEC process when η=0.5 and Qww=10m3∕s; work ratio is 1.0 (feed pump power negligible)

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Figure 3

Oceanic temperature profiles: baseline, warm ocean, and OTEC with τm=10yr

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Figure 4

Schematic of the one-dimensional model

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Figure 5

Steady-state OTEC net power as a function of mixed-layer utilization time

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