Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) is a technology that converts solar radiation into electrical energy. The OTEC system also generates fresh water as a primary product and generates only enough electricity, as a secondary product, to operate the OTEC system itself. The oceans, being a vast renewable resource, it has the potential to produce billions of watts of electric power. According to some experts this potential is estimated to be about 10^10KW power generation. The significance of discussing this topic lies in the production of significant amount of power with a little impact on the surrounding environment. Considering the economics of OTEC, it is appropriate to determine multiple product systems e.g., electricity, desalinated water, Mari culture, and air conditioning systems. The present paper also covers the basic types of an OTEC power plants cycle that are to be utilized.
OTEC is a technology that converts the solar radiation into useful electric energy. It uses ocean?s temperature gradient (the ocean?s layers of water have different temperatures) to generate the power based on 2nd law of thermodynamics. As long as the temperature between the warm surface water and the cold deep water differs by 20 deg C, an OTEC system can produce a significant amount of power, with little impact on surrounding environment. The oceans are thus a vast renewable resource, with the potential to produce 10^10 KW power generation. For OTEC a temperature difference of 20 deg C exists between the surface and deep seawater throughout the tropical area of world. The cold, deep seawater used in the OTEC processes is also rich in nutrients, and it can be used to culture both marine organisms and plant life near the shore or on land. The use of solar energy collected by oceans has attracted man for its conversion into electric energy; however the theoretical efficiency of conversion is nearly 2-3% only.
The concept of OTEC uses the difference of water temperature that exists between warm tropical surface waters and those at depth. The ocean water gets warm because of absorbed solar radiation. This variation in temperature is different at different layers of ocean water and highest temperature is achieved and as shown in the figure for different depth of ocean.
The water at surface become lighter than at depth and this retards the heat transfer by thermal conduction between them, keeping warm water at top. The temperature gradient inside the ocean water is non-uniform and varies approximately. Since the ocean temperature changes little from night to day or in the tropics with the seasons, an OTEC power plant is able to generate electricity continuously, unlike much other renewable energy sources.
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