OTEC full form is Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion and suggests a technology that creates a renewable source of energy. It mainly leverages the temperature differences among the different layers of seawater to generate thermal energy.
This widely popular technology is instrumental in reducing the stress on conventional modes of energy, such as coal-driven energy. In 1881, French physicist Jacques-Arsene d’Arsonval proposed this alternative form of energy creation to battle the slow depletion of non-renewable sources of energy.
What is Ocean Thermal Energy?
As the name suggests, ocean thermal energy takes advantage of the fact that temperatures of each layer within a large water body differ. Consequently, a turbine generator exploits cold seawater at deeper layers. Also, the temperature difference arising from warm surfaces play a vital role in energy production.
As per ocean thermal energy definition, the energy difference between such seawater layers is not just affordable but also predictable. Even though the surface of oceans and seas absorb solar energy, it falls short of temperature gradient. Therefore, scientists use liquids, such as ammonia, which have a low boiling point to produce thermal energy from the temperature difference.
How Does Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Work?
The process of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion mainly leverages the gap in the temperature gradient present at several layers of seawater. The larger the difference, the higher is the effectiveness of this method of producing renewable energy.
For instance, let us suppose that the surface temperature of seawater is 300 C, which is sufficient for ammonia to boil. This heat at the surface vaporizes the working fluid, which in turn rotates a turbine. The turbine, therefore, generates electricity when it is attached to a generator.
On the other hand, let us assume that the temperature of a deeper ocean layer is 50 C. The vapour thus produced at the surface further cools down from contact with deeper seawater. As a result, the vapour condenses back into a liquid, and one can reuse it again.
OTEC becomes a part of a continuous process of sustainable energy generation which significantly reduces the impact of global warming. Also, this procedure can be instrumental for energy creation to the tune of 3-5 terawatts (where 1 terawatt = 1012 watts).
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion: Advantages and Disadvantages
The advantages and disadvantages of ocean thermal energy are widely discussed in several quarters of the globe which put special emphasis on an alternative source of usable energy.
However, an in-depth analysis of the uses of this energy conversion process sheds light on the following Advantages of ocean thermal energy –
Ocean thermal energy conversion is one of the most sustainable forms of energy. Besides, its availability at all times contributes to its success in providing energy irrespective of weather conditions. For instance, it is a vital mode of energy creation in such tropical islands which lack the conventional means of energy production.
The by-products of this comprehensive process is desalinated freshwater which improves the scope of fish farming in several regions. Also, condensed greenhouse gases help in food production in dry landscapes.
The cold water involved in this process plays an essential role in air conditioning at minimum costs. It also introduces an impressive extent of self-sufficiency in such regions which are behind in conventional sources of energy.
Moreover, OTEC includes a few Disadvantages as well which are as follows –
Thermal energy conversion through differences in temperatures of ocean layers is primarily a capital-intensive process. The machinery involved in this method, along with the working fluid, comes at high costs.
The effectiveness of energy conversion in this process is significantly lower than other conventional counterparts. Besides, the cost of producing per kWh is substantially higher, which enhances its disadvantages.
Therefore, ocean thermal energy is due to the exploitation of difference in surface and deeper level temperatures of seawater which give rise to a voluminous amount of alternative energy.
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