Global rates of ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) are assessed with a high-resolution (1 deg × 1 deg) ocean general circulation model (OGCM). In numerically intensive simulations, the OTEC process is represented by a pair of sinks and a source of specified strengths placed at selected water depths across the oceanic region favorable for OTEC. Results broadly confirm earlier estimates obtained with a coarse (4 deg × 4 deg) OGCM, but with the greater resolution and more elaborate description of key physical oceanic mechanisms in the present case, the massive deployment of OTEC systems appears to affect the global environment to a relatively greater extent. The maximum global OTEC power production drops to 14 TW, or about half of previously estimated levels, but it would be achieved with only one-third as many OTEC systems. Environmental effects at maximum OTEC power production are generally similar in both sets of simulations. The oceanic surface layer would cool down in tropical OTEC regions with a compensating warming trend elsewhere. Some heat would penetrate the ocean interior until the environment reaches a new steady state. A significant boost of the oceanic thermohaline circulation (THC) would occur. Although all simulations with given OTEC flow singularities were run for 1000 years to ensure stabilization of the system, convergence to a new equilibrium was generally achieved much faster, i.e., roughly within a century. With more limited OTEC scenarios, a global OTEC power production of the order of 7 TW could still be achieved without much effect on ocean temperatures.
An Assessment of Global Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Resources With a High-Resolution Ocean General Circulation Model
Contributed by the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF ENERGY RESOURCES TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received January 1, 2013; final manuscript received February 12, 2013; published online May 31, 2013. Assoc. Editor: Kau-Fui Wong.
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Rajagopalan, K., and Nihous, G. C. (May 31, 2013). "An Assessment of Global Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Resources With a High-Resolution Ocean General Circulation Model." ASME. J. Energy Resour. Technol. December 2013; 135(4): 041202. https://doi.org/10.1115/1.4023868
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