Renewable energy systems include ocean thermal power plants, in the form of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion technology, also called OTEC for short. This technology represents enormous potential. The surface of the ocean catches sunlight, and as the water gets deeper it gets colder. The temperature difference between the cold water and the warm water is what creates the energy when it is done properly, but the water temperatures must be at least thirty eight degrees different for the process to be successful. Hawaii has been using OTEC technology for a while, with good results, but as of right now there are few ocean thermal power plants in operation, and these are too small to be really effective. Bigger thermal power plants need to be built, so that they are more effective and cost efficient. These power plants also produce fresh water from salt water as a byproduct of the ocean thermal energy conversion process.
There are three main types of systems used for OTEC, the closed system, the open system, and the hybrid system. In an open system, water is taken in from the ocean, goes through the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion process, and is discharged back out into the ocean. This means a constant supply of water moving in and out of the thermal power plants. With a closed OTEC system, the loop is closed and water is not discharged into the ocean, but rather continuously cycles through the thermal power plants. Hybrid Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion thermal power plants use aspects from both closed system and open system processes and designs. This allows for greater flexibility.
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