Resource Assessment

Assessment of the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) Resource in the Caribbean

Led by Yufei Tang, Ph.D.
Affiliated Home Campus: Boca Raton
Affiliated Department: Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
REU Scholar: Eliana Wilkoff
REU Scholar Home Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


As part of an ongoing efforts to meet energy demand through renewable energy, there is a new focus on harnessing energy from the ocean. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is a renewable energy technology that uses a thermal gradient from the ocean waters to create electricity. This pre-commercialized energy technology uses a working fluid to provide mechanical power to a turbine, using the warm surface water to boil the fluid and cold deep water from the ocean depths to condense the liquid in a Rankine cycle. It is noted that for OTEC to run efficiently there must be at least an approximately 20°C temperature difference between the warm and cold-water resources.

OTEC holds a promising energy future for areas near the equator, since there are high surface temperatures that provide greater temperature differences. In previous OTEC resource quantification studies, researchers have taken ocean temperatures at 20m depth for the surface water and 1000m depth for the cold-water intake pipe. However, it is important to investigate cold water intake at shallower depths to lower upfront construction costs. This study uses ocean data produced by the HYCOM ocean circulation model to investigate the cold-water intake depths and pipe lengths necessary for OTEC implementation in the greater Caribbean area. This spatial analysis suggests that the cold water necessary for OTEC can be accessed at a shallower depth than previously thought.

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HBOI ocean fish