OTECSOcean Thermal Energy Conversion Systems
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Serving this niche market of remote islands, where energy and drinking water are at a premium, could help OTEC get over a hump and move toward more widespread application, many of the technology's supporters hope.
To tap into the huge amounts of ocean thermal energy that are out there, though, OTEC needs to move away from land.
Taking OTEC to the next level, according to many of its proponents, would require "plantships"--huge floating factory-like vessels, with long cold-water pipes descending to the depths below.
These ideas of offshore platforms and floating factories may seem far-fetched, but OTEC supporters argue they're feasible and worth the bother.
If OTEC did scale up, how much energy could it produce?
Building OTEC plants capable of tapping ocean thermal energies efficiently will be a huge challenge, though, in part because they have never been built in anywhere near the sizes that would be needed to fully exploit the resource.
Most importantly, he adds, this composite material would be cheaper than either the plastic or steel pipes that have been used in OTEC plants before and could be scaled up to enormous sizes.
OTEC is ready to be scaled up, Cohen argues: "I don't know of any showstoppers." Christopher Barry, a naval engineer with the Society of Naval Architects and Ocean Engineers, agrees.
OTEC boosters are also excited about another possible benefit.