An open cycle OTEC system places top level seawater which is warm in a low pressure container, causing the seawater to boil. This creates steam which expands, and this steam expansion is used to drive a low pressure turbine which is hooked to a generator to produce electricity. During this process, the salt from the steam is removed and deposited in the low pressure container. The steam is then turned from condensation to a liquid again by exposing it to cool temperatures provided by the low level seawater which is cold. The result of this process is more than just energy generation. Once seawater has been through the open cycle OTEC process, the liquid that remains is fresh water that is very close to being pure.
A closed cycle OTEC system uses a fluid that has a low boiling point. This fluid is utilized to turn a turbine which generates electrical power. Seawater from the surface layer that is warmed by the sun is sent through a heat exchanger, and this causes the fluid used to power the turbine to become vaporized. This vapor expands and turns the turbines and generates electrical power. Cold seawater from the deeper layer is then sent through another heat exchanger, and this causes the vapor to become liquid again. After this point, the fluid is sent back into the system to be used again.
A hybrid OTEC process uses both types of technology for a unique mix. Some components of each type of OTEC system, both closed cycle and open cycle systems, are present in a hybrid system. Ocean thermal energy conversion is extremely environmentally friendly and safe, with no dangerous pollution risks. This process may be the answer to both the energy and environmental crisis. There is very little waste in this energy source, and recycling means that the end liquid is either used by the system again or is a water source for mankind, producing clean fresh water safe for consumption.
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