Advantages and Limitations of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion

This article describes about the principle of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion. Read to know about the advantages of ocean thermal energy conversion and its limitations.

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion

The large ocean surface acts as a reservoir of solar energy. The sun warms the surface water and wave motion mixes it to the downward from the deep cold water, formed at high latitudes, by a thermocline. The resulting vertical temperature distribution thus consists of two layers separated by an interface with temperature differences ranging from 10-30 degree Celsius. These two enormous reservoirs act as heat source and heat sink. Now, if a heat source is available at a higher temperature and heat sink at lower temperature, it is possible in principle to utilise this temperature difference to run a prime mover, i.e. turbine. The prime mover converts part of the heat taken up from the source into mechanical energy and hence into electrical energy. The engine working on this principle and utilises ocean energy is referred as OTEC.

Advantages of OTEC system :

  • Power from OTEC is continuous, renewable and pollution free.
  • Unlike other forms of solar energy, output of OTEC shows very little daily or seasonal variation.
  • Drawing of warm and cold sea water and returning of the sea water, close to the thermocline, could be accomplished with minimum environment impact.
  • Electric power generated by OTEC could be used to produce hydrogen.
  • Tropical and sub-tropical island sites could be made free from pollution caused by conventional fuels for electricity generation.
  • OTEC system might help in enrichment of fishing grounds due to the nutrients from the unproductive deep waters to the warmer surface waters.
  • A floating OTEC plant can generate power even at mid sea and can be used to provide power for off shore mining and processing of manganese nodules.

  • Limitations of OTEC system

    1. Capital investment is very high.
    2. Due to small temperature difference in between the surface water and deep water, conversion efficiency is very low about 3-4%.
    3. Low efficiency of these plants coupled with high capital cost and maintenance cost makes them uneconomical for small plants.

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    Guest Author: Abhiram23 Jul 2016

    How to rectify the disadvantages of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion?

    Guest Author: Sai Venkatesh31 Jan 2017

    Could you please elaborate on the concept of thermal mass accumulated in the surface of the ocean?

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