Hawaii About to Crack Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Roadblocks?

Editor’s Note: EarthTechling, always looking to forward the cleantech revolution discussion, is proud to bring you this news story via a cross post from partner OilPrice.com. Author credit goes to John Daly.

Hawaiian efforts to move towards renewable energy have a powerful ally in the form of Mark Glick, chief administrator of the State Energy Office, part of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

By 2030 Glick’s office hope to implement policies allowing Hawaii to achieve 70 percent reliance on clean energy.

wave power, SDE energy

image via Shutterstock

There are a number of projects already under development that could assist the archipelago to reach its goals.

But, Glick is under no illusions about the problems Hawaii faces in accomplishing these goals. During an interview last month with Honolulu Civil Beat, when asked about the biggest challenges facing Hawaii in switching to renewable energy Glick replied, “Our remoteness and market/population size limit our options. We don’t have the ability to stabilize the grid for higher concentrations of RE through interstate transmission of electricity as is the case on the mainland. And the lack of other conventional fuels means that we’re stuck with expensive diesel and fuel for power generation for whatever we don’t produce from renewable means.”

The more well known renewable energy sources – solar, wind and biomass, all have their pluses and minuses for development in Hawaii.

But there is a renewable technology being developed in America’s 50th state which savvy investors should keep a weather eye on.

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) utilizes temperature differentials between deep, cold ocean water and warm, tropical surface waters to run a heat engine to produce electricity.

It is in deep tropic waters that OTEC offers the greatest possibilities, as it is there that the temperature differentials are highest, with surface waters often reaching up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while deep water can be as low as several degrees above water’s freezing temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat from the warm surface water is used to vaporize ammonia, which turns a turbine to drive a generator to produce electricity.

OTEC has the potential to offer global amounts of energy that are 10 to 100 times greater than other ocean energy options such as wave power and unlike solar and wind power, OTEC plants can operate continuously providing a base load supply for an electrical power generation system. Energy specialists estimated that that 10 OTEC plants producing 100 megawatts of electricity could power all of Oahu.

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