Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion technology, known as OTEC, uses the ocean’s natural thermal gradient to generate power. In geographical areas with warm surface water and cold deep water, the temperature difference can be leveraged to drive a steam cycle that turns a turbine and produces power. Warm surface sea water passes through a heat exchanger, vaporizing a low boiling point working fluid to drive a turbine generator, producing electricity.
This process can serve as a baseload power generation system that produces a significant amount of renewable, non-polluting power, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Military shore-side bases and communities in the tropics, many of which are largely dependent on imported fossil fuels for power and transportation, are ideal candidates for such a system.
Lockheed Martin and Reignwood Group recently signed a contract to design a 10-megawatt OTEC power plant – the world’s largest OTEC project developed to date.
Lockheed Martin’s history with OTEC began in the 1970s, where the heritage Lockheed Martin Ocean Systems Division, based in Sunnyvale, California, developed a mini OTEC plant, which ran for three months and successfully generated 50 kilowatts of electricity.