USA: Lockhead Martin Thinks Big with OTEC

Lockheed Martin is progressing with Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion. Known as OTEC, this technology leverages the ocean’s natural thermal gradient to generate power.

It is in the final design stage for construction of an OTEC pilot plant off the coast of Hawaii that will be capable of generating10 megawatts of clean baseload electricity. The company hopes to have that pilot plant in operation in 2013, possibly earlier. By 2015 it figures it can build commercialsized plants, about100 megawatts or greater.

I dream of thousands of floating OTEC ships roaming the seas of the world providing an inexhaustible supply of clean energy and fuel and water for all people of the world,” says Ted Johnson, director of alternative energy development at Lockheed. He says “fuel” because the electricity produced from these systems could be used to power desalination plants or to turn water into hydrogen through electrolysis.

Lockheed Martin is progressing with Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion. Known as OTEC, this technology leverages the ocean’s natural thermal gradient to generate power.

In geographical areas with 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 sea water passes through a heat exchanger, vaporizing a low boiling point working fluid to drive a turbine generator, producing electricity.

This 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.

Additionally, OTEC power can be used to produce energy carriers such as hydrogen and ammonia, which can be shipped to areas not close to OTEC resources. The system can also include fresh-water production by flash evaporating the warm sea water and condensing the subsequent water vapor using cold sea water.

Lockheed Martin’s history with OTEC began in the 1970s, where the heritage Lockheed Martin Ocean Systems Division, based in Sunnyvale, California, developed a mini OTEC plant, which ran for three months and successfully generated 50 kilowatts of electricity.

Today, the team is engaged in research and development activities aimed at design of a modern era OTEC power plant. In addition to leveraging cross corporate resources, the team is working with other companies and universities who have expertise in the technologies and processes crucial for the successful commercialization of this renewable ocean energy source.

Source: lockheedmartin,April 20, 2010;Image: lockheedmartin

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