According to a team of researchers at the University of Hawaii, the leeward side of Hawaiian Islands could be a perfect place for the installation of ocean-based renewable energy plants. These plants will use seawater from the oceans’ depths to generate steady amounts of renewable energy and drive massive heat engines.
The technology is based on the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) and involves placing a heat engine between cold water pumped from the deep ocean and warm water collected at the ocean’s surface.
This process is like a ball rolling downhill, with heat flowing from the warm reservoir to the cool one. As long as there are great temperature differences, the flow of heat has more power to do useful work such as spinning a turbine and producing energy.
The OTEC process is not new (it dates back to more than half a century), but never took off due to the relatively low cost of oil and other fossil fuels. The best places for OTEC facilities to be used is on the oceans where the temperature differences are the greatest.
The University of Hawaii’s Gérard Nihous analyzed data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Oceanographic Data Center and discovered that unlike the windward (eastern) side of the Hawaiian Islands, the leeward (western) side has warm-cold temperature difference of about one degree Celsius greater. It means that there is more power for an OTEC plant.