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Water Power

Novel ocean energy concept to be piloted in Okinawa

Japanese engineering companies IHI Plant Construction Corporation, Xenesys Incorporated and Yokogawa Electric Corporation will work together to build a pilot ocean thermal energy conversion plant in Okinawa Prefecture.

With an OTEC system, the temperature differences between warm surface seawater and cold deep seawater are used to generate power. A low-boiling-point working liquid such as ammonia is pumped into an evaporator, where heat from warm surface seawater is transferred to the working liquid causing the liquid to vaporize.

The vapor drives a turbine that produces electricity from an attached generator. The vapor is then sent to a condenser, where it returns to liquid form after the heat is transferred to cold deep seawater in a condenser.

The pilot technology is touted as one of the most effective methods to utilize thermal energy from the ocean. The technology is considered especially effective for use in tropical and sub-tropical areas, where the temperature disparities between deep seawater and surface seawater is at its highest.

Xenesys will design and manufacture the power generation unit and the heat exchangers; Yokogawa will design, manufacture and engineering the monitoring and control system for the generation unit and the electronics for the interconnected power schemes; while IHI will develop and construct the entire facility.

Construction on the OTEC pilot plant is expected to be completed by March 2013. The plant will allow for the study of methods to cut power generation costs and looking at the viability of operating floating commercial OTEC plants off the Okinawa coast. – C. Dominguez

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