The rate at which the availability of natural fuel resources are getting depleted is higher than the consumption (Huang, Krock and Oney 158). This calls for clean energy sources such as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion whose short form is abbreviated as OTEC is essentially based on the utilization of temperature differences (Plocek, Laboy and Marti 1). In particular, the difference of incumbent temperature between the deep and the shallow areas of water become the source of electrical energy. This electricity is produced when the temperature difference is used to run a heat based energy which converts that form of energy to electrical energy. Whereas the amount of energy that can be produced is substantially little to an extent that its economic reliability becomes a challenge, it is evident that this method produced more energy as compared to other techniques applied in the production of ocean. Now, this paper will explore OTEC in a deeper and more extensive approach. It will touch on various issues including how the energy is being used currently, its benefits as well as shortcomings, overall view of the energy source, its potentiality, and the possibility of helping the country to achieve energy independence.
2.0 Viability of the Topic in the Energy Landscape
Essentially, the topic regarding the use of OTEC in USA occupies a very crucial niche in the energy landscape. This is based on the fact that OTEC is a renewable energy generated in the ocean implying that it is indeed a form of green energy (Vega 7296). Now, the issue of climate change has become of the most crucial concerns of the United States of America. The country is keen to ensure that the level of green house gases produced especially during the production of energy is kept at minimum. With this pursuit in mind, it has become increasingly necessary to rely on more renewable green energy for the purpose of power generation. This is an indication that OTEC provides a formidable window through which the country can progressively acquire more renewable energy. Now, whereas the renewability of the energy is crucial to the country at time when global warming is essentially a problem, sufficiency of the produced energy is also very critical when answering the question of how sustainable it is. In this regard, Takeshita conducts a detailed and preliminary evaluation of the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion whereby the author finds that the use of OTEC would effectively reduce the cost of energy to about 20 percent in reference to the current limits of Carbon (IV) Oxide emission (195). This is an implication that the form of energy can essentially help the country to cut its cost including the opportunity cost and the cost incurred as a result of emission of the green house gases. Of course, the cost of energy at a time when climate change is imminent cannot be considered a one-dimensional issue, but rather a multidimensional one. Actually, the author asserts that the products obtained from OTEC programs are essentially competitive when it comes to cost in relation to other common products. This is an indication that consumers would prefer using such energy as compared to other types in case it is well produced. Actually, in this case, the author talks about competitiveness in the global electricity sector, but not just a national, regional, or continental arena. As such, it is an indication that the results are well thought to cover other areas across the globe.
3.0 Principle behind the Use of OTEC
Essentially, OTEC makes use of the solar energy that is absorbed by the oceans. In this regard, the waters of the ocean absorb different amounts of energy according to depth. In other words, the heat absorbed lead to different ranges of temperature change due to the amount of water contained in different sections of the ocean. The deep waters are therefore cooler than the ones found in shallow places of the ocean. Both the cold and warm waters are injected into an engine which contains gases known for their low boiling points in the case of closed-cycle method. Some of these refrigerants include gases such as ammonia and Freon (Masutani and Takahashi 1995). Other gases used in this cycle include propane and R-134a (Sameti, Mohammad, Roghayeh Ghasempour, and Farahi 2). Since the gases have low boiling points, the temperature difference is capable of powering the generator and hence induces the process of electricity generation. In the case of Rankine cycle, the method applies the use of turbines that require very low pressure to operate. With such low pressure requirements, it is possible to use little energy for the purpose of generating electricity. On the other hand, the open-cycle method taps the water vapour from the oceans to actually use it as the operating fluid (Anne 19). The water is not only used to produce electricity alone. Instead, the warm water is desalinated in the process thus providing water for drinking and irrigating crops. On the other hand, once the cold water is discharged from the generator, it is used for various useful purposes such as conditioning of the air and refrigeration.
4.0 Current Operation in USA
It is evident that Hawaii has taken the lead to explore, establish, and use the OTEC power generating systems (Treacy para. 1). The author indicates that Hawaii has resolved to take this step based on the fact that most of its enegery has been coming from importations of fule. Of course, the imported fuel raises the cost of operation that it would be in the case of self-produced electricity. In addition to this, the state has explored this form of energy based on their strategic plan toward 2045. In other words, the OTEC system is part of a bigger plan to produce green energy such as wind, solar, and smart grid among others. The Hawaii OTEC system was planned, designed, and constructed by Makai Ocean Engineers. The system uses temperature differences to produce steam that is used for the purpose of driving turbines. These turbines are then used to produce electricity which is transferred to a power station situated in on the shore. The plant has been found to produce 105 kilowatts of electricity for the state of Hawaii. This quantity of electrical energy is capable of serving about one hundred and twenty households in the state. Whereas this is essentially a small amount compared to the overall amount of energy that is required, the plant is one of the largest in the world. It is a demonstration site for all countries and states that may want to explore and install something similar.
5.0 Groundwork that Will Help US Achieve Energy Independence
Essentially, there are various stipulations and creations that form the foundation of the USA’s pursuit to achieve energy independence. In this regard, the widespread acknowledgement that global warming is major challenge forms that basis of exploring energy solutions such as OTEC. Indeed, the mere appreciation that the country has to reduce its carbon dioxide emission ties its companies and entities to work towards more green energy rather than relying on imported fuel. Actually, this spirit has partly informed the decision by Hawaii to explore OTEC. In addition to the pursuit to reduce greenhouse gases, the plant at Hawaii is a fundamental pillar to achieving more sustainable energy. It does not only act as an example of what should be done, but it also provides technical precedence for other states to borrow and copy. As such, it is evident to state that the country has laid good groundwork in regard to ensuring that its energy sustainability is achieved.
6.0 Advantages and Disadvantages
OTEC has both pros and cons in regard to technicalities, the quality of energy produced, as well as the quantity. These pros and cons are pointed out below in order to make a determination on the overall suitability of the plant.
6.1 Advantages of OTEC
The energy produced in OTEC is really and completely clean as well as renewable. In essence, it is green energy because it does not produce green house gases to pollute air (Lombardo para. 2).
This technique of energy production is not reliant on little amount of waste products like in other methods (Ocean Thermal Energy: Pros and Cons – Updated Article with Extra Information, para. 2).
The process leads to the creation of clean water in the process of production.
It does not lead to the negative effects on the environment especially those the world is fiercely seeking to eliminate (Lombardo para. 3).
It can produce constant energy all through the ear because it relies on the sun energy to heat the water (Ocean Thermal Energy: Pros and Cons – Updated Article with Extra Information, para. 2).
6.2 Disadvantages of OTEC
It is currently inefficient in USA as far as cost is concerned (Lombardo para. 5).
Blockage of the pipes by planktons and protection of pipes from the effects of salty water increases the cost of maintenance (Ocean Thermal Energy: Pros and Cons – Updated Article with Extra Information, para. 3).
The technology is tied to a specific location that is immovable (Lombardo para. 6).
Expsnsive logistics and transportation ((Lombardo para. 7).
It is evident that OTEC can provide USA with the kind of energy it is seeking for given that the country is in dire need of green, clean, and renewable energy. Essentially, the general acceptance of the society and the authorities to pursue energy sources forms a suitable platform for the development and exploration of options such as this one. In addition, it has been established that Hawaii OTEC plant forms part of the foundation upon which the country will identify more sites for this type of energy source and actually build them. Further, the research clearly shows that there are more benefits that the cons of using OTEC. Some limitations such as cost inefficiency only arise at the start, but with time, the economies of scale reduce it. It is, therefore, valid to conclude that USA should seriously explore this alternative energy source as opposed to the methods that pollute the environment.
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