Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Could Power All Of Hawaii's Big Island

With an energy crisis looming on Hawaii's Big Island -- gas prices and electricity costs are among the highest in the United States -- the solution may lie in the ocean.

The vast difference in the ocean's temperatures, from the warmer surface to the very cold deep waters, has the potential to create energy through what is called ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). Hawaii has long been the most desired face of OTEC because of the vast water temperature disparities in the region -- "the Hawaiian islands could produce 15 percent more energy than traditional OTEC plants," according to Inhabitat.

So how exactly do two extreme water temperatures meet to create energy? Tubes of ammonia are warmed in the surface water to produce steam, which drives a land planted turbine and creates electricity. The gas is then passed through cold water that is pumped up from the depths of the ocean to turn it back into a useable liquid. Makai Ocean Engineering's current plant is 100 kilowatts and hopes to install its turbine next spring.

The ultimate goal is to create a 100 megawatt plant, which could provide enough power for the entirety of the Big Island. The 100 megawatt plant would live on an offshore platform and could cost upwards of $1 billion.



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