Electricity from the ocean depths could power entire islands

In the tropics, the deep sea is cold and the sea surface is very hot. This temperature difference can be utilized and converted into electricity. If we can improve the technology, this method of power generation could be a gift for island nations dependent on expensive and polluting diesel for their power.

For over a century, researchers have been exploring the idea of ​​ocean thermal energy conversion. There is nothing fundamentally new about the idea of ​​extracting power from temperature differences. In fact, the underlying technology is similar to the way coal, gas and geothermal power plants create electricity, using steam to spin a turbine.

The challenge is to find the right place where the temperature differences make it worthwhile. That means relatively close to the equator – think north of Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and off the coast of southern Japan.

Currently, pilot plants are only capable of generating a fraction of what a large wind turbine can. But on the plus side, ocean thermal plants can generate power 24 hours a day.

Deep sea looking to surface