Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Pros and Cons

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Will the Earth still be able to keep producing fossil fuels to support the modern societies that are based on them? That’s a question that more people are starting to ask because the sheer amount of oil, natural gas, and other fuels that are being used are reaching massive numbers. More than 40 million barrels of oil can be used on any given day. With renewable energy sources, this fossil fuels could be supplemented immediately and then eventually removed from the chain of supply. One of the most exciting options is ocean thermal energy conversion. Here are the pros and cons of this energy source.

The Pros of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion

1. It is a truly clean, renewable source of energy.
No pollution comes from the development of energy through OTEC. It can function 24/7, every day, always producing energy – something that solar and wind energy cannot do. This would provide communities with a consistent source of power upon which they could always rely.

2. It doesn’t impact the environment.
Although processing cold seawater has often thought to create thermal pollution within the ocean, the effects that have been studies show no impact to the ocean environment whatsoever. To our knowledge, this makes it one of the safest and least disruptive methods of energy development that is available right now.

3. Fresh water is created.
For every 1,000 liters of water that is processed in the OTEC process, 5 liters of fresh water is created. Current OTEC plants have been known to create up to 7,000 gallons of fresh water every day. This is water that can be used in agricultural applications as well as water that could be sent to drought regions.

The Cons of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion

1. It isn’t a cost efficient technology right now.
Oil is a cheaper resource and this makes it a more viable energy product for the average consumer right now. It is even more expensive than solar or wind power generation in many locations, so investment into research and development applications for OTEC would be required to make it cost-effective in the future. These one-time costs may not always be sustainable.

2. It is a location specific technology.
Ocean thermal energy conversion requires a large location that has a close enough proximity to the shoreline. There must also be a certain level of temperature variation within the ocean water to make using OTEC technology a viable option. With limited locations like this available, not every country may be able to effectively use this technology.

3. It requires expensive transportation options.
Even when there is a location that is effective for OTEC, the logistics of transporting the energy that is created and removing the fresh water that is made as a side effect of the process can be quite expensive. When managed properly, it could become a very profitable venture, but the time and monetary investment to make it so could be quite extensive.

Although this technology may not be 100% sustainable right now for many countries, ocean thermal energy conversion gives us hope for the future. It is proof that we don’t have to remain reliant on oil and fossil fuels if they are no longer found to be affordable or available.