Tuesday, May 6, 2008

As the Price of Oil Nears $123 per barrel, We Call on an Expert for His In-Depth Explanation of OTEC

MAY 8 UPDATE--Oil futures shot up to $124.61 today, a new record. For returning visitors who've already read this post, jump down to Comments for some new thoughts about a much-desired prerequisite for OTEC's development.

This blog’s mission is to inform and educate readers about the potential for ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) to transform societies by ending their debilitating dependence on fossil fuel for the generation of electricity (and ultimately replace gasoline, too).

To do that, we have to continuously educate ourselves, since we’re not an expert on OTEC or anything else (except Internet searches; that we do well). Today’s search found this nugget with which we’re in 100-percent agreement (see our earlier post on Lanai’s potential to be the planet’s first totally green island):

“Tropical and subtropical island sites could be made independent of conventional fuels for the production of electricity and desalinated water by using plants of appropriate size.”

The author is Dr. Luis Vega, who has years of experience operating an experimental land-based OTEC plant in Kona on the Big Island in the 1990s. Dr. Vega’s “Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Primer” (this is a PDF download) may have more information than you need about the technical aspects of OTEC, but it won’t leave you wanting for more if that’s your desire. Here’s how he ends his primer:

“Conventional power plants pollute the environment more than an OTEC plant would and, as long as the sun heats the oceans, the fuel for OTEC is unlimited and free. However, it is futile to use these arguments to persuade the financial community to invest in a new technology until it has an operational record. The next step in the development of OTEC is the installation and operation of a pre-commercial plant sized such that it can be scaled to 100 MW.”

And that’s where things stand in Hawaii. Oil futures hit $122.73 per barrel today as Goldman Sachs predicted a price of $150 to $200 within two years. Will Hawaii acknowledge its ongoing oil crisis and move smartly to develop the only base load energy source that can replace fuel oil in these islands?

Stay tuned. The future of this state is hanging on the answer to that question.


Anonymous said...

Please keep in mind that Hawaii's problem is that decisions regarding energy require that someone make a decision that could prove very risky. If you can find a maverick to take the risk then your home free. Once the go is given, my team can build the platform either land or sea based at the cheapest rate available on the market to date.

Thank you

Doug Carlson said...

Thank you, "anonymous," for your comment. Yes, we've written about OTEC's Catch 22 -- the difficulty finding that first client to take the plunge. Yesterday's "maverick" could be lauded tomorrow as our age's "visionary" by doing so. Good old-fashioned guts might distinguish that person from those too timid to try. And while it's easy for me to urge others to become Customer #1, we could use a Howard Hughes-type to step up and lead the way. That's why I focused on OTEC's potential to make Lanai a fossil fuel-free island in a post back in March. The island's owner already has boldly proclaimed the intention to build a 300-MW wind farm and export power to the other islands. Why stop there? Be REALLY bold and become Customer #1 for a small OTEC plant to serve the island and also export power to Molokai, which has the highest electricity rates in the country (along with Lanai). But from what we hear, the owner isn't interested, which is too bad. Maybe he'd listen if someone other than a blogger were promoting Lanai as a fossil fuel-free island within the next five years.

Anonymous said...

The US Virgin Islands may be the first location to opt for OTEC power. See attached article. Both OCEES and Sea Solar Power have submitted bids to the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority to generate electricity via OTEC.

14 companies give WAPA proposals for alternative power production

USVI Daily News
Friday, May 2nd 2008

The V.I. Water and Power Authority has named 14 small power providers who have proposed to augment the utility's power production and reduce costs to consumers.

The proposals include several different energy options such as ocean thermal energy conversion, wind power, geothermal energy, coal energy and an inter-island connection cable between St. Croix and St. Thomas. The bidders are from throughout the Caribbean and the United States.

These bidders have demonstrated that they have the experience to design, construct and operate a power generation facility and obtain financing, WAPA spokeswoman Cassandra Dunn said. They also have shown that their technology is not related to oil.

"We know this is one of the long-range things to help us with our challenges of generating energy," Dunn said.

Now that the bidders have submitted their final proposals, WAPA's evaluation team will begin the process of deciding which will be the best fit for the territory, Dunn said. The evaluation team is made up of WAPA engineers, top management personnel, technicians and financial employees. Evaluators will be guided by consultants Boston Pacific, R.W. Beck and Skadden Arps, as well as ex-officio team members including WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. and the authority's legal counsel, Dunn said.

Ensuring that the small power provider will produce electricity at a lower cost than WAPA's existing generators will be a major factor in the selection, she said, but environmental sustainability and the amount of time needed to come into operation also will be considered.

Bidders were allowed to choose the island district in which they wanted to develop their technology, Dunn said. Some have selected one, some want to develop it on both, and some want to start with one district and spread to the other. Dunn said that the placement of the technology will not necessarily be a big factor in selecting a bidder, but plans to develop alternative energy sources in both districts "is not going to work against them."

The selection committee will make its choice between June 24 and 29 and will announce the winner on June 30, Dunn said. WAPA and the winner then will begin negotiating terms for the contract.

When WAPA went through a similar process in 2005 and 2006, negotiations with the successful bidder, Innoventor Technologies, failed and no contract was signed. Dunn said that WAPA is committed to making sure the process works this time. "We on our side will do everything possible to be successful in this process," Dunn said. "We know
we need alternative energy. We cannot sustain ourselves using fuel oil much longer."

The bidders include:

- Advance Green Technologies, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Advance Green would use solar photovoltaic generation to produce two megawatts of power on St. Thomas. It would be operational by Jan. 1, 2010.

- Bio Energy Inc., based in Cherry Hill, N.J. Bio Energy would use bio-mass generation to produce 10 to 12 megawatts of power on St. Thomas and also on St. Croix. It would be operational by May 2009.

- West Indies Power Holdings B.V., based in Charlestown, Nevis. West Indies Power Holdings would use geothermal flash and/or binary plants to produce 130 megawatts of power for both St. Thomas and St. Croix. It would be operational by August 2010.
- Atlantic Renewable Energy, based in Clifton, Va. Atlantic Renewable would use a gas turbine generator and gas engine generator with compressed natural gas to produce 34 megawatts of power on St. Thomas and 24 megawatts of power on St. Croix. It would be operational by May 2010.

- St. Croix Renaissance Group, based on St. Croix. Renaissance would use pulverized coal-fired boilers and a simple steam cycle to produce up to 60 megawatts of power, 100,000 pounds per hour of steam, and 1 million gallons per day of water for St. Croix. It would be operational by Jan. 1, 2011.

- St. Croix Renaissance Group LLLP and NOVA Energy LLC, on St. Croix and in Fort Collins, Colo. It would use waste-to-energy and simple steam cycle to provide 3.312 megawatts of power for St. Croix. It would be operational by May 2011.

- Blue Wave Capital LLC, in cooperation with St. Croix Renaissance Group, based in Boston and on St. Croix. This group would use solar photovoltaic and wind generation to produce 7.2 megawatts of power for St. Croix. It would be operational Jan. 1, 2011.

- Alpine Energy Group, based in Englewood, Colo. Alpine would use municipal solid waste, refuse derived fuel and steam power generation to produce 13.5 megawatts of power for both St. Thomas and St. Croix. It would be operational by Oct. 1, 2011.

- Sea Solar Power International, based in Washington, D.C. Sea Solar would use ocean thermal energy conversion to produce 10 megawatts of power for St. Croix, with the objective to then develop infrastructure to produce 10 megawatts of power for St. Thomas. It would be operational by June 1, 2012.

- BQ Energy, based in Patterson, N.Y. BQ would use wind energy to generate 19.55 megawatts of power for St. Croix. It would be operational by June 18, 2011.

- Cari Trans, based in Plainville, Conn. Cari Trans would use an interconnection transmission cable between St. Thomas and St. Croix to produce 60 or 80 megawatts of power. It would be operational by 2011.

- OCEES International, based in Honolulu, Hawaii. OCEES would use ocean thermal energy conversion to generate 15 megawatts of power for St. Croix. It would be operational by Dec. 31, 2011.

- Stern Brothers, based on St. Croix. Stern Brothers would use wind to generate 16 megawatts of power for St. Croix. It would be operational by July 2011.

- Nu Energy Smart, LLC, based in Fort Pierce, Fla. Nu Energy Smart would use plasma arc gasification technology for waste-to-energy application to generate 18 megawatts of power for St. Thomas and for St. Croix. Subject to meeting a financing deadline later this year, it would be operational by June 2011.

Contact Megan Poinski at 774-8772 ext. 304 or e-mail mpoinski@dailynews.vi.