Heat from the sea is being used in a pilot power plant to provide all the energy for a ‘green’ hotel resort in China.
Dubbed Ocean Thermal Energy Technology or OTEC, the process relies on the natural temperature difference found in the ocean in tropical regions.
In areas with warm surface water and cold deep water, the temperature difference can be used to drive a steam cycle that turns a turbine and produces power. When warm surface sea water passes through a heat exchanger, it vaporises a fluid with a low boiling point which then drives a turbine generator.
Set to be built on the coast of southern China next to a Reignwood Group resort, the 10-megawatt offshore plant will be the largest OTEC project developed to date, claims the engineering firm behind it.
Dan Heller, vice president of new ventures for Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training said: “The benefits to generating power with OTEC are immense… Constructing a sea-based, multi-megawatt pilot OTEC power plant for Reignwood Group is the final step in making it an economic option to meet growing needs for clean, reliable energy.”
There are at least 80 areas around the world which could be exploited with the technology, believe experts at Lockheed Martin. For the moment its hotel project with Reignwood could be the first of several more power plants ranging in size from 10 to 100 megawatts.
Each 100-megawatt OTEC facility could produce the same amount of energy in a year as 1.3 million barrels of oil, the firms say and lower carbon emissions by half a million tons.
The Reignwood Group is currently developing two large low-carbon resort communities, with others planned in key locations in China and hopes the new technology will help the company to develop its first net-zero community at the new resort.