Thursday, September 22, 2011


Hawai`i: economic diversification opportunity squandered ... again !!

By Henry Curtis

Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation (OTECorp) Reaches Written Understanding (MOU) Toward Building the World's First Ocean-Powered Clean Energy Plants.

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is like an anti-refrigerator.

It takes the different temperatures in surface and deep ocean water and creates electricity.

Known since the 1800s, tested in Cuba in the 1920s, proven by Hawai`i and Japan 3 decades ago, a company with roots in Hawai`i has had to go to the Bahamas to sign an OTEC MOU to build commercial scale OTEC.


Why when Hawai`i wants economic diversification and we have developed OTEC (baseload, continuous, 24/7 renewable energy) with minimal environmental, cultural and greenhouse gas emissions, why can’t Hawai`i built the first commercial plant?

Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation move toward construction of two ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) plants

This announcement signals the start of OTE Corp.'s globalization of its competitively priced renewable energy resource, ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) and BEC's increased focus on exploring various ways to integrate renewable energy systems in businesses and homes that reduce The Bahamas' use and dependency on fossil fuel.

The core mission of OTE Corporation is to bring OTEC to the nearly 100 tropical regions around the world where land-based commercial OTEC power plants are now an economically viable solution.

With the signed MoU, OTE Corporation will immediately move forward with BEC to complete the design process which is expected to culminate with the company building, owning and operating the world's first two commercially viable OTEC plants that produce fossil-fuel free electricity, potable water and sustainable food production in the form of aquaculture, mariculture and chilled soil agriculture.

OTEC holds the promise of benefiting the entire world in five critical ways: moving many nations toward energy independence; massively reducing carbon footprints; providing potable water to millions in need; creating jobs and general economic development; and enhancing international security by substantially reducing global demand for oil. The Bahamian plants will be the world's first OTEC facilities to utilize ocean water for clean energy, fresh drinking water and sustainable food production in a commercial capacity.

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You know the legislators do not make decisions based on common sense and what is the best for the general public. Their decisions are based on the amount of lobbying, $$$$$ and the perceived votes they will get.

One reason, any massive 'first effort' is considered (by we degreed engineering managers) as "bleeding edge". "Bleeding Edge" technologies are typically 'budget busters', the Space Shuttle is a case in point, as is the Boeing 787 and Medicare.
If one considers the alternatives of siting a privately funded one-off plant, why would any rational mind pick the worst State in the union for government regulatory hoops to hurdle, time times to meet, high cost of living, land expense etc?
IMO it is the reason even the Governor wishes to suspend many environmental regulations and has suffered the wrath of the Sierra Club, KEHEA, et all.
The only chance of having this technology is to fund and run it through the State, and what chance are our politicians willing to take on a likely budget buster?
There is your answer.

Glad you posted this, Henry. I'd like to know what YOU think is the reason why this wasn't done in Hawai'i especially since we've been dabbling with OTEC for decades.

Henry, with all due respect, your article was *not* intellectually honest. Three points. First of all the OTEC system is on land. n1 Second, what is special about the Bahamas and why it *cannot* be replicated in Hawaii is that "They do not have the unique temperature gradient that we have near to shore through the Tongue of the Ocean. From warm to cold; that is the big driver." n2 Third, a major concern is the *reliability* impact of highly corrosive ammonia used in the heat exchanger turbines n3 and hence it is *good news* that the Bahamas (rather than Hawaii) is on the "bleeding edge."




Having a masters degree in thermal fluids and material science and being a certified energy manager, I feel comfortable in saying that current plan to use deep water to direct air conditioning buildings is a far better use than trying to create electricity through a SMALL TEMPERATURE gradient.

Even the direct air-conditioning project is kind of sketchy, the water isn't that cold, and the delivery system, digging through old downtown streets with no documentation of as-builts of existing pipes and wires, is fraught with extra costs and delays, that in the real world make the difference between a GO and a NO-GO.

Steveo, thanks for your comment. I had wondered also about OTEC with regard to the thermal differential available and how that relates to the amount of power that could be produced from a plant of practical size. But I wondered as an EE who learned that the three laws of thermodynamics are not enough. There needs to be a fourth, something like, "find someone who knows about it and ask." That tends to eliminate a common thermal problem, namely, hot air.

I would hope that among those working on OTEC would be someone who has done the math and found that it works out. Perhaps such a person could comment on the question you have raised. The information would have to be produced for investors and others, to demonstrate feasibility.

In New York, as I recall, for some time they solved the digging problem by tunneling at a level deeper than anyone had dug before. By just doing that they didn't hit any prior infrastructure. I wonder if that makes any sense here in Honolulu with regard to the cold water pipes etc. Probably not. Just thinking out loud.

An environment friendly construction is ideal for developing Hawaii. The sustainability will maintain the balance between its natural wonders and economy.

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