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US funds ocean thermal and seawater air conditioning

Lockheed Martin will receive US$1 million from the US Department of Energy (DoE) to advance ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC).

The first grant will fund a tool to estimate the amount of energy that can be extracted from the ocean's thermal layers. The geographic information system-based dataset and software tool will identify regions that are viable for ocean thermal energy conversion and seawater-based air conditioning (SWAC).

Seawater-based air conditioning uses cold seawater near coastlines to provide space cooling and has the potential to significantly reduce electric utility loads during high summer demand periods. It is a proven technology currently in use in Hawaii, Bora Bora, Stockholm and Ottawa, and the resource mapping from this tool will provide critical information about the feasibility of regional ocean thermal energy conversion and seawater-based air conditioning  for policy makers, the energy industry and the public.

A second grant will be used to develop estimates of performance and lifecycle costs associated with utility-scale ocean thermal energy conversion systems and to demonstrate economic feasibility of projects. The data will provide justification for pursuing commercialisation of ocean thermal energy conversion and generate investment interest in this renewable energy source.

Ocean thermal energy conversion leverages temperature difference

The two grants will support efforts by Lockheed Martin to produce an economically-viable utility-scale source of renewable energy that can leverage the temperature differential of warm surface water of oceans and the colder water below.

“The Department of Energy awards provide Lockheed Martin the opportunity to further demonstrate the capability of OTEC," explains Vice President Jeffrey Napoliello. “As a self-sustaining energy source, with no supplemental power required, OTEC will help our nation and our military achieve their renewable energy goals.”

The DoE grants follow an US$8 million Department of Defense award to Lockheed Martin last September, which involves the development of critical ocean thermal energy conversion system components for its design of an ocean thermal energy conversion pilot plant. In 2008, Lockheed Martin received a US$1.2m contract from DoE to demonstrate how special cold water piping could be fabricated to carry the large volumes of seawater required to produce commercial power.

Mini-ocean thermal energy conversion built in the 70s

In the 1970s, Lockheed Martin built a ‘mini-OTEC’ prototype that remains the world's only floating ocean thermal energy conversion system which can generate electricity in excess of what is required for the facility’s consumption. Since then, the company has tried and validated the technologies necessary for an ocean thermal energy conversion  system that could generate a utility-scale power supply.

Lockheed Martin employs 140,000 people around the world, with annual sales of US$45 billion.
 

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