An Assessment of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion as an Advanced Electric Generation Methodology

Gerald Thomas Heydt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) is a process that employs the temperature difference between surface and deep ocean water to alternately evaporate and condense a working fluid. In the open-cycle OTEC configuration, the working fluid is seawater. In the closed-cycle configuration, a working fluid such as propane is used. In this paper, OTEC is assessed for its practical merits for electric power generation. The process is not new—and its history is reviewed. Because the OTEC principle operates under a small net temperature difference regime, rather large amounts of seawater and working fluid are required. The energy requirements for pumping these fluids may be greater than the energy recovered from the OTEC engine itself. The concept of net power production is discussed. The components of a typical OTEC plant are discussed with emphasis on the evaporator heat exchanger. Operation of an OTEC electric generating station is discussed, including transient operation. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of OTEC is the recent experiments and efforts at the Natural Energy Laboratory—Hawaii (NELH). The NELH work is summarized in the paper. Remarks are made on bottlenecks and the future of OTEC as an advanced electric generation methodology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-418
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the IEEE
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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