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Chinese Developer To Build Ocean-Water Thermal Energy System 93

Posted by timothy
from the warm-up-top-cold-below dept.
the_newsbeagle writes "When you've got a wacky high-tech idea that will cost a lot of money, head to China. Lockheed Martin is the latest company to heed this advice. For decades, Lockheed has investigated ocean thermal energy conversion, in which the temperature difference between warm surface water and cold deep water is leveraged to produce power. Just a few years ago, the company was working with the Navy and discussing a possible OTEC pilot project in Hawaii's Pearl Harbor. That idea has since been scrapped, and Lockheed is now partnering with a Chinese resort developer to build the 10-MW pilot plant off the coast of southern China. Lockheed hasn't disclosed the cost of building this plant, but outside experts say it might cost more than $300 million."
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Chinese Developer To Build Ocean-Water Thermal Energy System

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    We have no idea what this is going to do to the local ecology, n'mind to the bigger picture. We do know that the oceans have a bit of a role in the climate, but we don't know very much at all about the what & how--and we know this too. So this is pretty much irresponsible.

    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @01:48AM (#44591829)

      We have no idea what this is going to do to the local ecology,

      Yes we do. Natural ocean currents produce millions of cubic miles of upwelling every year. This is utterly insignificant by comparison. There would be far more adverse effect on the environment if they didn't do this, because China would otherwise burn coal to generate power. Deep ocean water is very rich in nutrients, so after the heat is exchanged, the warmed deep water can be dispersed on the surface to improve fishing yields.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        We have no idea what this is going to do to the local ecology,

        Yes we do. Natural ocean currents produce millions of cubic miles of upwelling every year. This is utterly insignificant by comparison.

        With megawatts continuous power to generate out of a small temperature difference you need to work through a comparably large amount of water. Your assumption of negligibility is no substitute for having seen and verified that it is indeed negligible. Very few things are in the long term, and the effects of these things will be there in medium to long term, especially if it is deemed a "success" (probably ignoring ecological side effects as China is wont to do) and more of these things get built. Simply goi

      • by TapeCutter (624760) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @04:28AM (#44592293) Journal
        Damm, where are my mod points. The reason the ocean around the Galloglass islands is so rich in sea life is because of one such upwelling. The power in those upwelling's is several orders of magnitude higher than our global energy needs and natural fish stocks are very high where they occur naturally. The waters around natural upwelling's is so productive they could be used to map the global southern ocean fishing fleet.
        • More importantly, if you can do this with natural upwellings, its the same sort of infrastructure and engineering requirements as you'd need to tap geothermal vents for power directly (which is destructive, but the vents are temporary - i.e. decadal - things anyway so provided we did keep it low in proportion of vents, it would be sustainable).

      • So...we are warming the deeper waters, so they will tend to rise more? there may be some local benefit. Say we put 20 of these in place in 100 square miles. Would this aggregate affect the larger currents that have developed over millions of years? We are not back to Pangea, but these currents have been there for a long time. Interrupting /short-circuiting them seems like tapping your blood pressure to make energy... at some would change the balance. Are you saying there would be no
    • by Culture20 (968837)
      Won't someone *please* think of the sea kittens?!
    • OTEC is yrt another technology that Greens lauded and promoted until the instant some contemplates actually building it. Note the venom with which they are greeting this tiny pilot project. THIS, not labor or official regulation, is why anything edgy and cool has to be built in China
    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you're not happy with it - go demonstrate in China and see how far you'll last

    • by godel_56 (1287256)

      We have no idea what this is going to do to the local ecology, n'mind to the bigger picture. We do know that the oceans have a bit of a role in the climate, but we don't know very much at all about the what & how--and we know this too. So this is pretty much irresponsible.

      But we do know what the current use of fossil fuels is doing to the oceans. It's raising the temperature and raising the acidity to the extent that we are already seeing the effects on the shells of the small arthropods at the base of the ocean food chain. The Australian CSIRO predicts a collapse of the ocean environment by about 2050 — goodbye commercial fishing, goodbye Great Barrier Reef. A few OTEC plants aren't likely to change that much, in either direction.

      What's a bigger concern is the $30 a

  • open power (Score:4, Funny)

    by Gravis Zero (934156) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @01:06AM (#44591651)

    The most commonly used heat cycle for OTEC is the Rankine cycle using a low-pressure turbine. Systems may be either closed-cycle or open-cycle.
    -- wikipedia

    considering the parties involved, it's obvious this is going to be a completely closed-cycle system. i'll wait until someone make and open-cycle version for Linux.

  • Why are they letting a programmer do civil engineering?

    • by dbIII (701233)

      Why are they letting a programmer do civil engineering?

      Why not? This place is full of MSCEs telling professional engineers and experience scientists that despite not getting as far as calculus or chemistry, and a complete failure to acquire any experience, that those MSCEs know far more about science or engineering. It's the Tom Clancy idea where experts are born by magic instead of becoming so via education, training or experience. That's why we get clowns here saying that a jet fuel fire is not hot eno

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        That's the conservative anti-intellectual rant we know and love. It's not how much you know, or what you know, but whether you are a "recognized" expert that matters. A smart person with broad knowledge is a useless expert of nothing. The anti-Renaissance is on us.
        • by dbIII (701233)
          Sadly there's dozens that think they are a renaissance man based on nothing to gut feeling to one that has gone out and got shit done and then understood what has actually happened when they did it. At least electronic ignition has ended the seemingly endless stream of people that tuned an engine to run well at idle and came to the conclusion that they had made an amazing discovery and uncovered a huge conspiracy involving every engineer on the planet. They jumped to that conclusion before understanding t
          • by AK Marc (707885)
            Then I'm not sure where the irrational hatred of Clancy comes from. He values experience in his novels. Nobody ever claimed someone got it "in an instant" (including Tom Clancy), and your anti-MCSE comments are silly. Self-study to pass MCSE tests is "education" by your definition. So anyone with an MCSE had education or experience, two things you value, but you bash the MCSE itself, and those holding it. It doesn't make sense to me.
            • by dbIII (701233)
              He does in what I recall to be at least two novels to dismiss the value of education yet his expert has no experience, apprenticeship, wide reading or informal training either - the expert is just perfect due to magic. It's an example from novels not an irrational hatred of them.

              Self-study to pass MCSE tests is "education" by your definition

              Yes, but then pretending that's equal to an engineering degree and that they are better than people in a given field that they are totally unfamiliar with is where the

              • by larkost (79011)

                I have not read Tom Clancy's latest novels (the NetForce ones that he co-wrote turned me off), but all of my memories of his best characters have them going thorugh lots of training, with many of them being selected for "elite" units based on their performance in training exercises. He even shows those same characters continuing to practice their trade (e.g.: in Ranbow Force the show lots of time on the shooting ranges).

                There is even a quote somewhere in one of the books (maybe Rainbow Force again) that goe

                • by dbIII (701233)
                  I'll have to track down the quotes but those two were not his better characters and there was an anti-intellectual rant used in describing them. Somehow they became instant experts in giant lasers without having anything at all to do with them or messing with that sissy reading books stuff.
                  Some of his stuff isn't too bad, but in a genre a hundred years old you wonder if he thinks he's any good at all in comparison to things like Conrad's "The Secret Agent" or "Under Western Eyes".
                • by dbIII (701233)
                  I got about twenty pages into one where I hit such a stupid rant about experts that I gave up on it, but another wasn't so bad even if it was about how wonderful it would be if a completely unelected person with almost zero management experience (former lone wolf spy or something) ended up running the USA along the lines of a dictatorship, but a "benevolent" one of course. That was entertaining if a bit contrived.
          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            At least electronic ignition has ended the seemingly endless stream of people that tuned an engine to run well at idle and came to the conclusion that they had made an amazing discovery and uncovered a huge conspiracy involving every engineer on the planet.

            Unfortunately, in the midst of your attempt to be clever, you revealed your automotive ignorance. Electronic ignition simply replaces points with a transistor, commonly known as an ignitor module; Chrysler has been using it since the sixties on some models. You're thinking about electronic fuel injection, but you're still wrong; some vehicles with EFI can still be tuned. Indeed, my 1989 240SX's KA24E powerplant retained a distributor even though it utilized sequential fuel injection, and injection timing wa

            • To clarify: EFI precisely is used because it can be tune throughout the RPM band and load with precision. Reference fuel map tables and open/closed loop operation.

            • by dbIII (701233)
              Yes, I meant EFI which has put an end to silly carbi games from conspiracy theorists, thanks for the correction. The people playing with EFI at home now can work out what is going on more easily and know about idle versus load instead of treating it like a magic box.

              Why don't you leave the automotive analogies to people who understand cars

              You are making a bit much from a typo.

      • [rant]I ran into a classic one yesterday. Some Information Services 'engineer' telling me I must use his packaging machine PLC code standard to run his Power Factor Correction System. These guys often have no idea what forces they're playing with. The standard is brilliant for packaging machines I'm sure, which are largely sequential lots of VSDs and axis control, but this is most definitely not the sort of system that can work on this standard. It is completely inappropriate. I applaud standards. I love it

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        That's why we get clowns here saying that a jet fuel fire is not hot enough to burn down a tall building

        Oddly, the experts also said that the collapse of the building could not be caused by a jet fuel fire way off on one side of the structure. But then, after further reflection, scientists known to be government whores claimed that they would have to rewrite the book on demolitions because that's allegedly what happened. Meanwhile, buildings still commonly fail to fall even when a proper suite of explosives is used.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The one in Okinawa Japan was on TV the other day generating 12 KW. []

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, what could they possibly learn from this new one? It's almost as if they think 10MW is more than 12kW.

  • by jcr (53032) <> on Saturday August 17, 2013 @01:48AM (#44591831) Journal

    If someone could supply cold ocean water in large quantities at the surface, it could significantly cut the cost of air conditioning for large hotels and office buildings.


  • I believe there's a couple of buildings in Toronto that have been saving energy this way for years.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 17, 2013 @02:22AM (#44591965)

    I visited the energy park on the west side of the big island of Hawaii eight years ago or so. It's quite an interesting place. They have large ~3 foot plastic pipes going down deep into the ocean. They pull up cool water from various depths. They have tenants at the facility trying to make use of that cool water. I remember a solar power plant, and an algae bio-fuel facility (I guess algae likes that kind of water). They also had a company that took the cold salt water, pulled the salt out, and bottled it for very expensive drinking water (it's supposed to be very pure).
      Here are the two problems with the demonstration OTEC plant they had decommissioned that I remember the docent telling me about:
    1. The salt water just eats everything.
    2. The low temperature difference between the deep water and the surface means that you have to build a BIG machine to get net energy out.
    I wish them luck. This is not a slam dunk.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 17, 2013 @07:53AM (#44592803)

      I live on the west side of Hawai'i, and the situation for why the OTEC plant isnt powering this island, Maui and O'ahu is one of simple democratic governance failure. The state regulatory agency boondoggle known as the PUC (public utilities commission) has given a monopoly to HELCO for all of the electric delivery grid, allowed them to charge cost-plus rates for electricity (and burn Diesel as thier primary generation fuel). We have the HIGHEST power rate in the nation last i checked, and HELCO is not mandated to purchase energy produced by any other producer at a rate above the mainland wholesale. OTEC plant has run for nearly 20 years, the plant is not 'decomissioned, the local temperature difference is between 26.6 C mean yearly at the surface, and 6 C at depth. The high volumes of water is a natural result in thermal upwelling inside the meter wide tubes as a small maount of warmth infiltrates the in line water and causes natural convection driven 'pumping action' that is not restricted will squeeze the ends of the pipes shut (much like pulling too fast on a soda straw in a fruit smoothie).
      The science and scalability have been proven, if it werent for local politics interfering with the business realm we would have ZERO pollution energy, naturally powered desalination and atmospheric water extraction (cold water in pipes make them sweat - you can water alot of garden with this by product)
      The cost - to power ratio for building and operating this technology is better than most if not all alternative (nee green) power production methods, it runs Day and Night.

      The 'tenents' on NELHA property do make excellent use of the runoff after OTEC power production; we have local seahorse, abalone, shellfish, spirulina, and mineral water (no sodium chloride left, but all the trace minerals remaining) which is sold exclusively in Japan - because the high price demand of that market completely outstrips local budgets. (My mother-in-law used to work at one plant, and a business client is the systems engineer at another desalination facility - both have told me tat they aren't even looking to obtain permits for Hawaii consumer safety certification because of the Japanese demand.)

      The resultant 'nutrient upwelling' effect supports several offshore suspended fish net operations, notably Kona Blue's Kampachi (skipjack i think - but i always order kit as sushi so its all Kampachi to me). One abalone farm has been using spat and breeding stock from the northeast coast of japan (RikuChuKaian) that has lost much of it fishing resources in the 2011 tsunami - and they are awaiting Japanese government permission to reintroduce young abalone into damaged areas as soon as the permissions and conditions are appropriate.

      If our local powergrid was deregulated and consumers were allowed to choose the source of electricity; hands down this technology wins across the board.
      Negotiations are underway for additional 100Mw and 25Mw facilities here in the islands, but as perviously stated, the involvement of HELCO is not making me hopeful for any success. The Okinawa plant uses the same technology and designs that have been the result of ongoing research and developed here since 1974.

      I wish the NELHA gateway visitors center had a better presentation and that the plant had a better public affairs office with regularly scheduled 'tours' of the tech demonstrator plant in operation; you would have been better informed if the information were more easily accessible during your visit.

      I guess the engineering team just lacks the PR presence that wind turbine industry has.

      It's not a 'slam dunk' - but then no power plant construction of any kind is really a slam dunk - they all take a significant investment to build and operate; this one just has a nearly limitless clean fuel supply, it just happens to be salty, and power plant engineers seem to like halocorrosive metal tubing over flexible plastic which isn't corroded by salt buildup. (By the way, it might even be profitable to keep the plant certified as a

  • This way we can pump heat directly into the deeper ocean and not have to wait for heat to slowly exchange from the surface!

    I'm sure there won't be any bad side effects.

    • by dbIII (701233)
      So, please tell me, what brings a clueless luddite with no conception of scale and a tenuous grasp on reality to a tech site? I'd suggest turning of the computer for a few minutes and go outside or at least look out a window at reality out there for a little while before coming back. Your "in 20 years 1200MW" really puts it in perspective, even that much energy loss from such a massive system is a drop in the ocean. There's plenty of coal fired power stations bigger than that, and just about every purely
      • Look- wind was supposed to be "free" power as well and there is already talk of it altering weather patterns and regional wind patterns. Which makes sense when you are extracting energy from the wind.

        Other power plants (like the ones you mention) that use water for cooling are already experiencing difficulties because the water is warmer than was projected or lower than projected or the local wildlife is blooming and clogging the plant's water intake.

        Nothing is free.

        Always look for the unintended consequen

        • by dbIII (701233)

          Look- wind was supposed to be "free" power as well and there is already talk of it altering weather patterns and regional wind patterns

          Yes, from the "windmills make me sick until someone gives me money or improves my property value" crowd. Sorry to point this out, but once again buildings, trees, land clearing etc have equivalent impact.
          The other is unrelated due to intensity and SCALE, that word mentioned above. Very large temperature differences (close to boiling to ambient) and a lot of volume are a bi

    • In geological time terms, a cold ocean floor is _very_ recent - concurrent with the onset of ice ages.
  • Arthur C. Clarke already warned us the deep-ocean dwellers might not take kindly to dumping heat into their environment.

  • Seems like Japan would be the better place for and Ocean-Water Thermal Energy System.
  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:46AM (#44592981)

    While I'm not sure how much energy is represented by the ocean temperature differentials in question (As efficient per square meter as a solar panel?), I'm pretty sure maintenance costs will be prohibitive. The ocean is famous for chewing up what we throw at it. Anything made of metal is probably a significant maintenance cost. Not sure it's possible to do a cement structure of sufficient size, in mid ocean, in deep water.

  • Hawaii already tried and failed at OTEC back in the late 70's. The difference between surface and deep water temperature determines the max theoretical efficiency and it turned out not to be high enough to make the process work given real-world heat losses.

    After the OTEC project shut down, the state had a deep-water pipe off the Kona coast that they were wondering what to do with. Fortunately for Hawaii, at the same time the California Coastal Commission was making life miserable for an abalone farmer in

  • Had millions of it can never be done type.

"The greatest warriors are the ones who fight for peace." -- Holly Near