The solar and wind energy are considered by many as these sources. Indeed, these powers are reliable and highly desired renewable energy sources. But in spite of all this they have significant limitations. Such alternative power plants can't work at night and in case of lack of winds. In order to radically change the structure of power generation in favor of renewable resources we need a stable energy source that has great energy potential.
And that source really exists.
This is the energy of tropical seas and oceans, Ocean thermal energy conversion technology (OTEC). In 1881, Jacques d'Arsonval, a French scientist, proposed the usage of ocean thermal energy by means of exploitation the temperature difference between warm ocean surface water and cold water at a depth. At a depth of 600 m. the difference in temperature reaches 17-20 degrees Celsius. The principle of working OTEC power plant is the principle of classical heat engine. The heat of surface ocean water is used for evaporation of an easy-boiling refrigerant (ammonia or others). A steam jet gives its kinetic energy to the steam turbine, which drives the electric generator. The cold water taken from the depths of the ocean is used for the subsequent condensation of steam.
Currently, a number of energy companies have OTEC pilot projects on the agenda. The Lockheed Martin (USA) Company is planning to build on Hawaii in 2012-2013 the OTEC plant with performance 10 MW (1). The U.S. government has already allocated to this project $ 600,000. But unfortunately, low energy conversion efficiency of existing plants based on the scheme, which was developed over a hundred years ago, prevents the wide application OTEC technology.
Russian scientist from St. Petersburg Stanislaw Poniatowski proposed a fundamentally new scheme of OTEC-power plant, which is hundreds times reduces the plant's own energy consumptions and makes possible the widest and commercially profitable usage of OTEC (2). Under the scheme by Poniatowski, the condenser is located at a depth, and not water but the working fluid (i.e. an easy-boiling refrigerant) rises to the ocean surface. Then this refrigerant evaporates under the influence of warm water in a boiler-evaporator. Talented inventor has developed an original technical design of the whole system. His invention was protected in 1998 by Russian patent № 2116465.
Application of OTEC is the most effective from the standpoint of science. For comparison, the power density of solar radiation is 1400 watts per sq. m. The potential of wind energy with optimum speed is 1700 watts per sq. m. And these energy sources are unstable. But the potential of ocean thermal energy in tropical latitudes reaches 300,000 watts per sq. m. (sic!). Another major advantage of OTEC is that this technology can be used not only to produce electricity, but also in areas such as water desalination, hydrogen production, aquaculture, air conditioning, mineral extraction from sea water, chilled-soil agriculture (which allows to grow crops of temperate latitudes in the tropics) .
The widespread application of the OTEC on an industrial scale instead of thermal power plants and nuclear power plants could reduce the load on the environment in two ways. First, it could be achieved directly by reducing harmful emissions from thermal power plants into the atmosphere, and secondly, the conversion of ocean's heat into electricity will reduce excessive warming up of ocean waters and this in turn will stop global warming.
It is easy to understand the global significance of the Pacific Ocean in this context, where is the bulk of tropical waters of our planet. But the main question is, who and how will undertake the embodiment of the energy revolution program? Implementation of OTEС on an industrial scale requires much more investment than the use of solar, wind or wave energy. The energy transnational corporations have the necessary capital, but have no desire to reorganize their established business. While there is an opportunity, they will exploit the traditional, non-renewable resources.
There is a logical question - why would the very people of Oceania do not become the initiator of the OTEC-energetics program as they should be the main beneficiary of it first and foremost? And the answer is just clear to all. Oceania's countries have not sufficient financial resources. They haven't it because the politicians of these countries continue adopting and implementing dead-end economic model. This economic model is based primarily on tourism as a carrying frame of the economy. The social consequence of this model is permanent and hopeless techno-economic backwardness. The political consequence of this model is inevitable and all-round dependence on more powerful countries, capitulation before their neo-colonialist and imperialist policies.
The only way out of the situation is to refuse of the degrading existence as an exotic holiday destination for wealthy Western tourists and turn to self-sufficiency, economic autarchy. There is quite enough resources for this purpose. The only question is political will; the question is capacity of politicians. The top priority task on this path should become a state monopoly on foreign trade, which will accumulate resources and allocate them not for the building new hotels for the wealthy western people, but for the foundation of the economy - the energetics and for the other important goals of the national economy.
Certainly, it's impossible to implement such ambitious projects as OTEC alone. Therefore a close co-operation of all non-imperialistic (i.e. without the participation of Australia and New Zealand) Oceania's countries is necessary. That is why the idea of the Confederation of the Pacific Islands is so topical, that is why it is so progressive.
1. "Q&A with Lockheed Martin's director of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion program". http://www.energyboom.com/emerging/qa-lo
2. “The Electrician” magazine, 2005, № 1. page 22. http://mega-faza.ru/ra_e2005_01.rar