US aerospace company Lockheed Martin have signed an agreement with Reignwood Group, a resort developer based in Beijing, China, to construct an Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) plant – the first of its kind in the world – off the shores of southern China. The plant, scheduled to be finished by 2017, will produce 10 MW of energy to supply all the power needs of the resort.
OTEC technology generates electricity from turbines turned by steam produced from heating the warmer surface waters of the sea into steam. The steam is then condensed by the deeper colder waters which are pumped up from depths of around 1000 metres.
Lockheed Martin has been investigating the possibility of harnessing the differences in temperature in ocean waters for the production of electricity, and for the past few years have been putting the technology through its paces in Hawaii.
However, the tests, supported by the Energy Department, the US Navy and Makai Ocean Engineering, were largely unsuccessful as a fully functional plant could not materialise from their efforts.
That failure has however not deterred the Pentagon, as it has stuck to its aim of putting up an OTEC plant of 5 to 10 MW capacity, expandable to a commercial capacity of 100 MW. This will be borne out of the continued partnership between Makai Ocean Engineering and the US Navy, since Lockheed Martin has now established a partnership with Reignwood Group.
According to the representative of Makai, Duke Hartman, the Navy is interested in OTEC since the technology promises a lot a benefits, such as “being able to tow a semisubmersible power plant to almost any corner of the world.”
Even though Lockheed’s power plant is to be built in foreign waters, in collaboration with a foreign company, vice president of the company’s Mission Systems and Training, Dan Heller, revealed that there are a number of locations in the US such as Florida and Hawaii which have shown enormous potential for OTEC plant development.