Aiming to bring a new form of renewable energy to tropical resorts, Global OTEC Resources moved to Newquay this week to develop the company’s innovative concept for using ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) especially for ‘offgrid’ resorts in the Maldives and Caribbean.
“We are working with a number of luxury resorts to introduce ocean thermal energy conversion,” remarks Managing Director Dan Grech. “Other forms of renewable energy such as wind and solar have not been proven as viable for meeting the energy demand of these resorts. Consequently, most are currently burning thousands of litres of diesel daily (which has the disadvantage of high carbon emissions as well as volatile costs) so there is strong interest in looking at an alternative form of renewable energy – our new concept meets their needs.”
Global OTEC Resources received £140,000 from Marine-i – part funded by the European Regional Development Fund – and aims to boost the marine technology sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly through accelerating innovation.
OTEC is an application of solar energy that exploits the heat that the ocean captures from the sun’s rays. It possesses huge environmental advantages over fossil fuels and nuclear power; avoids land-use problems associated with renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind, biomass, and hydroelectric power; and has the potential to produce far more useful and affordable energy than could be obtained from other renewable sources.
Essentially, OTEC uses the temperature difference between various depths of seawater (cooler deep and warmer shallow or surface seawaters) as a way to produce electricity by drawing from the surface layer into a heat exchanger to vaporise a ‘working fluid’ with a boiling point of about -30°C.
The vapour drives a turbine attached to an electric generator. Exhaust vapour from the turbine is subsequently condensed in a second heat exchanger, which is cooled by water pumped from the cold water source below. The condensed vapour is then returned to the boiler to complete a cycle that will generate electricity 24 hours a day throughout the year
The next stage of Global OTEC Resources’ project will be to design a fully costed business model. That’ll take place over the next six months. “We are expecting to be ready to build our first ocean thermal energy systems at resorts in the Maldives within two years,” adds Grech.
Global OTEC Resources is one of an increasing number of examples of pioneering marine technology businesses to be attracted to Cornwall, says Matt Hodson, Operations Director at Marine Hub Cornwall.
“The company is dynamic and ambitious, with a clear view of the global market it plans to target,” he says. “Marine-i is delighted to help Global OTEC Resources move their business to the next stage and exploit worldwide markets.”
Working with technology partners DWR Offshore and Skentel, Richard Argall, OTEC Lead says this project showcases a flexible and modern approach to commercialising OTEC. “I’ve been involved in several projects in the last decade and a half with others who have tried valiantly to get huge OTEC developments off the ground. [Global OTEC Resources] takes a sensible approach de-risking the technology, starting with small scale niche applications like remote island communities and that gives it a stronger chance of success.”
The timing is right, says Project Manager Tim Wood. “The team around this project is special in terms of its technical acumen. Its knowledge of the energy and offshore industries is world-class.”