Thursday, January 22, 2009

OTEC History, Challenges and Potential Highlighted In an ‘Invention and Technology’ Magazine Article

Much of what a reasonably curious person would want to know about ocean thermal energy conversion – including the frustrations of French inventor Georges Claude (at left) – can be found in a well-researched article by James R. Chiles in the Winter 2009 edition of Invention and Technology magazine. (Unfortunately, the link is no longer active.)

The article’s subhead draws in the reader:

“Eighty years ago, a brilliant French inventor staked – and lost – his considerable fortune on developing ocean thermal energy, but his dream of harnessing unlimited energy from the sea lives today.”

Claude tried again and again to make his OTEC dream work but was undone by bad technology, bad planning and bad weather forecasting. The piece devotes a major portion of its space to Claude’s ultimately fruitless efforts, but valuable lessons were learned about the difficulty of deploying OTEC technology, lessons that Chiles says are relevant in today’s quest to develop Hawaii's first pre-commercial OTEC plant.

Here are a couple quotes from the article:

“A natural source of power exists which is abundantly able to supply all power needed by future man.” The tropical ocean can supply “an indefinitely large storehouse of potential energy, inexhaustible” if tapped.

So wrote engineer Ben J. Campbell 96 years ago, and it’s still being said today (providing further support to the notion there's nothing new under the sun; see this blog’s first post on March 14, 2008).

Chiles’ piece is recommended reading, especially for its mention of Hawaii initiatives and personalities affiliated with OTEC, including entrepreneur Bill Spencer’s fish farming plans for Hawaii Oceanic Technologies that would use small OTEC systems to power fish pens in the open ocean.

(Mahalo to Robert Cohen, long-time OTEC enthusiast and backer, for sending us the article.)

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