Solving Island Energy By Going To The Past: 140-Year-Old Technology Offers New Hope for Clean, Unlimited Power

Peyton Plankton
By Peyton Plankton

The Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) technology, a concept dating back 140 years, is poised to become a game-changer for island nations, offering a beacon of hope for unlimited clean energy. Despite its vast potential, OTEC has faced significant hurdles, including technological complexities, limited funding, and competition from more affordable renewable energy sources. Currently, the world has only two small demonstration OTEC plants in Hawaii and Japan, each contributing a modest 100kW to the power grid, as reported by TNW.

The primary obstacle in the widespread adoption of OTEC has been the exorbitant costs associated with establishing these plants. A significant portion of this expense is attributed to the extensive deep-sea pipelines required to transport water from the plant, which has long been considered a prohibitive factor.

However, Global OTEC has emerged with a promising solution to this challenge. The company is focused on offering small island nations a sustainable and cost-effective energy alternative to traditional diesel power. Their pioneering commercial-scale OTEC plant, named Dominique, features a novel modular design with a floating barge concept. Dan Grech, CEO and founder of Global OTEC, shared with TNW that their design would need only a single 750-meter-long cold-water pipe. The estimated cost of this innovative approach is between $2.5 and $3 million, substantially lower than traditional OTEC plants.

“History is an important teacher, and we are committed to learning from it,” Grech emphasized, highlighting the company’s dedication to innovation and sustainability.

Dominique isn’t just a concept but a beacon of sustainable progress. Recently showcased at the International Vacuum Electronics Conference Forum (IVECF), the plant is set to be installed in São Tomé and Príncipe. The project has already garnered Approval in Principle (AIP) from Lloyd’s Register and is moving steadily towards operational viability.

As Dominique advances through geotechnical surveys and detailed design phases, Global OTEC has its sights set on commencing commissioning by the end of 2025. Grech is confident about the project’s potential, stating, “We know Dominique is a life-changer for small islands and coastal nations, and that’s why we see the pace of the project on track for success.”

Highlighting the significance of collaboration in this venture, Grech added, “This is an important lesson we want to share with investors, as the public-private partnership allowed the smooth undertaking of critical techno-economic, environmental, and social studies to progress to this point.”

Gabriel Mquengo, the National Energy Director of the Directorate General of Natural Resources and Energy (DGRNE) of the Ministry of Infrastructure, Natural Resources and Environment of São Tomé and Príncipe (MIRNMA), has lauded this technology as a transformative opportunity for their nation.

This initiative represents a crucial step towards a more sustainable and energy-independent future for island communities globally.

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