Would ocean thermal energy conversion be a great sustainable technology for harnessing the stored solar power in the oceans?

Concerning sustainable technology, would OTEC – Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion – be a great solution for harnessing the stored solar power in the oceans?


As you suggest, ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) generates power by using the difference in temperature in sea water – warm at the surface and cold lower down- so is a good way to harness the stored solar power in the oceans. It can also be used for desalinating sea water. Unlike wind and wave power and solar photovoltaic power, it is not intermittent, so can be used for baseload electricity. It is also well spread across the globe, though obviously not all countries have access to the oceans.

OTEC should definitely be supported and funded. As this is not yet a widely developed or demonstrated technology, public subsidy is both necessary and fully justifiable. Estimates suggest that it may be cost-competitive with, for example, wind power, but at this stage they are just estimates. The US (Hawaii) and Ivory Coast have been leaders in this field. India and the Republic of Nauru now have ambitious proposals.

Stephen Tindale


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