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Harnessing the Thermal Energy of Oceans

Harnessing the thermal energy of oceans involves using the temperature differential between the warmer surface water heated by the sun and the deeper colder water. Pipelines measuring 10-15 meters in diameter pump warm water from the surface to vaporize a fluid, whose resultant vapor expands to drive a turbine generator, and draw in cold water from below the surface to condense the fluid. Today, there are very few power plants that use ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) to generate electricity. The United States (Hawaii) and Japan have launched several OTEC pilot units, and the French company DCNS has plans to build a 16 MW floating facility in Martinique that is expected to come on stream in 2018.

Harnessing the Thermal Energy of Oceans