Artificial Energy Islands Could Power The World

by , 02/11/08

Artificial Energy Islands to Produce Energy & Water, Energy Islands, Energy-generating islands, Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, OTEC, George Claude, Alex Michaelis, Dominic Michaelis, Trevor Cooper-Chadwick

Ocean waves are already being used as a source of renewable energy, but could differences in water temperatures in the sea be our next source of green power? A decade old idea to generate renewable electricity for the globe with offshore, floating ‘Energy Islands’ could soon become a reality. The concept – creating artificial islands to collect wind, wave and solar power in the tropics – is based on the work of Jacques-Arsène d’Arsonval, a 19th-century French physicist, who envisioned the idea of using the sea as a giant solar-energy collector.

Inspired by Jacques-Arsène d’Arsonval, architect and engineer Dominic Michaelis, his son Alex Michaelin (also an architect), and Trevor Cooper-Chadwick are developing a new technique called Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) that takes advantage of differences in temperature between the ocean surface sea (up to 29°C in the tropics) and water a kilometer down (which is typically 5°C). Here’s how it works: warmer surface water is used to heat liquid ammonia, converting it into vapor, which expands to drive a turbine — which in turn produces electricity. The ammonia is then cooled using cold water from the ocean depths, returning it into a liquid state so the process can start all over again.

Their goal is to build a network of “energy islands”: floating hexagonal-shaped platforms of reinforced concrete and corrosion-resistant metals that would generate electritict via wind, wave, and solar in addition to having an OTEC plant. It’s estimated that each island complex could produce about 250MW, and that 50,000 “energy islands” could meet the world’s energy requirements (as well as provide two tons of fresh water per person per day for the entire world population — desalinated water is one byproduct of the OTEC process). OTEC plants work best when there’s a temperature difference of 20°C between water at the surface and the water below, making tropical and sub-tropical seas the best candidates for energy islands.

The concept will be launched later this year at Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Earth Challenge, which offers $25 million in prizes for innovative solutions for combating global warming.

+ Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion

Via the Guardian & the Telegraph

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  1. makaioceanengineer April 8, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Our company is currently involved in OTEC research, and has been since the 1970s. We are currently working with the US Navy and Lockheed Martin to design a 2.5MW floating OTEC pilot plant to be located off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. Visit our website or blog for updates. Thanks!
    Duke Hartman

  2. niknite July 19, 2010 at 2:59 am

    Why don’t we ask BP to fix it?

  3. connor1701 February 5, 2009 at 5:06 am

    I’m not a scientist and i’m not an evironmentalist but to all the detractors can’t you see?
    The potential for this is HUGE! These produce power in a clean way and create enough water to keep every person on the planet alive. Any temperature change will be miniscule, it will not suddenly cause the oceans to boil. Trust the scientists people, they have done thier homework and obviously know what they are doing. As for the environment, any person who is intrested in marine life will know that a stationary structure in the sea becomes a haven for wildlife. The brains will probably include something to keep wildlife out of harm, but seriously, what is more important on this planet? Microscopic photoplankton or human beings? I think the latter personally.
    This project has such amazing potential it would be a shame for it to be crushed bya few people concerned about fish bumping thier heads on it.
    Keep up the good work!

  4. mathieupard June 26, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Wow.. “Their goal is to build a network of “energy islands”

    Also get more info on this site:

  5. voalse May 12, 2008 at 6:44 pm


  6. Powering the future &la... March 9, 2008 at 4:20 am

    […] What the hell is this you might wonder? Well, it is an artifical engery island. It makes ocean waves a source of renewable energy. Along with wind, and solar energy, all clean energies. No more fossil fuels! Read more? click here. […]

  7. Mekhong Kurt March 4, 2008 at 3:32 am

    GREAT idea — especially the multi-source harnessing of energy. It further could avoid the “not-in-my-backyard” syndrome, especially if an island can be located far enough offshore so as not to be an eyesore for beach residents. (I know practically zilch about the economics of transmitting the harnessed power to destinations.)

    The past few years sure have been exciting in this field. Germany, with its leadership in harnessing solar power. The Netherlands and Great Britian, with their plans for offshore wind farms. Parts of the U.S. erecting solar-panel and wind-turbine farms. Various methods of capturing excess heat to use for various purposes. On the individual level, neat gadgets such as a hand-rechargeable digital, via rolling a power-generating wheel a few times. Rechargers attached to your knee that work when you walk. Power-generating exercise equipment. Personal wind turgines (which can be held or mounted outside a car window, for instance). Solar backpacks, etc. The list is exploding on all scales.

    Thanks to the Inhabitat folks for focusing on this stuff.

  8. emanuensis February 27, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    The the Guardian & the Telegraphs title of the jpg “where an energy island would work” is actually a misnomer. The notation they make of “Area where OTEC will work” is actually much more accurate as energy islands will work wherever there is wind or solar energy. OTEC may need a largish differential to work but energy islands sure do not. They can work well in high latitudes, indeed Germany now gets a lot of energy from solar.

    Transporting Amazons full of freshwater to populated areas from these islands would be an impossible nightmare. i suggest instead of making steam rise into the winds whenever meteorological forecasting predicts they would make rainfall over good areas! That way the transport is free and easy. All it takes is (the free) energy to make the steam. At the other times the energy can be transported to populations as electricity, hydrazine, hydrogen, salts, etc etc. A much more feasible and more manageable venture. Though still difficult enough. Or it can be stored until the weather changes and it again is possible to do water transport without wasting it over the seas. If one once got it to land it could be diverted to aquifers, dams, or snowpacks, as it is now.

    As to the danger that storms may damage Energy Islands, i agree. They need to drastically reduce their sail, or wind loads, at those times. The can do so by either sinking everything beneath the sea for protection, or by reducing the sail on the wind towers. Possibly both. But acres of reflectors are going to be hard to keep viable in winds. If they can be kept viable while sinking into briny sea water then great!

    Living on one would be fun! It would be like boating. You would have to be prepared for the occasional dunk though;-)

  9. cranky merlin February 26, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    can i put a house on one of those things??? that would be so much fun. :-) i’ll be the power and light keeper for you.

  10. Sam February 25, 2008 at 12:53 am

    So does anyone here know that the OTEC line is also a line on which most major storms occur? Hurricanes form along the line in the Atlantic. They actually almost always follow that path (or at least they seem to when you live in Florida). Most major storms that slam Hawai’i and California follow that path. I think the island would be destroyed by a storm before it was even finished being constructed.

  11. Thierry Fournier February 20, 2008 at 5:15 am

    OTEC is certainly a great idea, and combining it with other sources of renewable energies on the same artificial island certainly makes sense. I just wonder why you are focused on the ammonia cycle, as this creates other environmental hazards. The open cycle just using water and steam is very efficient and totally environmental friendly. I had participated to the french program ERGOCEAN in the 80ies, and the conclusion was that the oil price had to double to make OTEC competitive. Since that time, oil has much more than doubled, and it’s the right time now for OTEC.

  12. troy February 18, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    What everyone here is ignoring is that OTEC, developed to a scale that will replace fossil fuels that are changing our climate, will also contribute to the positive feedback loop that is warming the earth. Deep ocean layers are supposed to stay cold, the amount of CO2 they contain is immense, not to mention billions of tons of a much more potent greenhouse gas, methane hydrate. It’s very simple, you don’t have to warm up these deep cold layers very much before the ocean starts to give off massive greenhouse gas. Yes, from this supposedly renewable source. The simple truth is that nothing, absolutely nothing in the pipeline to replace fossil fuel is that easy and without consequences. Take wind turbines for example. Multiply by one million the ton or so of copper used in the windings of the large Vestas turbines. (not to mention blades made from oil, steel towers, etc. To make these takes immense amounts of fossil fuel to mine and there is not enough copper left. Perhaps solar is a solution, but imagine changing the earth’s weather over the required area the size of Kansas due to the reflectivity of panels and see what butterfly effect you create in a broad area’s weather. Perhaps there are simply too many people on the planet and there are no magic bullets to shoot to keep up what is an unsustainable world population?

  13. Robert Palgrave February 18, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Regarding the distribution of electrical power from such artificial islands. The state of the art technique for long distance transmission is High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC). Superior to HV Alternating Current, because DC does not suffer losses through capacitance coupling between the conductors – can be built to give losses of only 3% per 1000km.
    This HVDC system is already in use to interconnect the national grids of various EU countries, and is being proposed for a ‘supergrid’ that will link solar thermal plants in the deserts of N Africa to Europe.
    See for more on HVDC, and and for more on desert solar power.

  14. VInay Dikshit February 18, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Amazing Story.

  15. Joseph February 17, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Hurricanes DO occur at or near the equator.

    In fact, some of the most horrible ones have ravaged Indonesia and Thailand, which are right near/on the equator.

  16. Hydrogen-FC February 17, 2008 at 1:13 am

    This integrated power generation also solve the main problem that faced by rural island, like in Indonesia. Indonesia is have many islands and not all have electrified yet. You could imagine the people on there don’t have electricity and suficient water supply for their life.

  17. Ryan Flynn February 14, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    This is a good Idea, I would like to speak with the man who came up with these Islands, as I came up with something about 1.5 years ago. All sketches done, but do the same thing, only in 2010, this will actually start being built.

  18. joe farmer February 14, 2008 at 10:57 am

    great idea, it would be good to see that kind of cumulative placement in land based sites as well, geothermal, wind and solar, we might hae to pass up on the wave. maybe substitute smallhydro.

  19. Lamont B Dumont February 13, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    BP, you’re right about line loss, though I think the figure is closer to 50%. I have to take issue on the superconductor as a nearly 100% efficient distribution system. The temperatures required for superconducting represent a considerable energy delta from ambient. That’s gonna leave a mark. Further, vacuum pumps don’t run themselves; they’ll be sucking a bit of that power as well. There would be no point in commecializing such an infrastructure until the energy consumption required to reach superconducting conditions would provide a substantial improvement over current line loss numbers. We’re not there yet, or else those infrastructures would be in place.
    A better answer is more local electricity production. That way line loss is minimized by the absence of large regional distribution lines. I’m thinking a fuel cell pile or two in every neighborhood, all interconnected like a cellular grid instead of the current model of huge, instrusive, disruptive power plants pumping huge amounts of electricity into the big distribution grid that then gets fed down the local users. Or maybe one in everybody’s backyard, if they’re small enough.
    By eliminating line loss, you cut the amount of electricity we need in half. If the fuel cells run on hydrogen generated from re-formed natural gas, so much the better. Just use the existing infrastructure to deliver the fuel and make the electricity locally. Fuel – potential energy – is cheaper/more efficient to transport than kinetic energy like electricity or hydraulic or pnuematic pressure, all of which are subject to line loss.
    Make it locally.

  20. BP February 13, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    So, you concentrate control of this type of energy in the hands of the countries that have access to the “zone”. No strife there right?

    And how are we to efficiently transmit this wealth of energy to where its needed? Currently one of the biggest hurdles with power distribution is the energy loss through copper lines. Energy that is transmitted over standard copper lines loses about 80% of its current by the time it reaches its ultimate destination. We would have to drastically change our current power distribution infrastructure. The only near 100% efficient power distribution model available is a semi conducting super cooled vacuum transport tube that would allow plasma like transmissions of energy from point A generation station to point B power conversion stations for local distribution. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard enough time just getting the power company to clear their right of way of tree limbs on power lines… let alone expect them to upgrade their infrastructure to that degree.

  21. Russ Aimz February 13, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Hi Mahesh, great article, thanks for posting it. Actually I put a link to it from my site as I feel It’s very important and wish to share it with others. Glad you posted it and thanks. Russ

  22. Nicole February 12, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    that is so cool but like other people say what happens when the structure breaks or collapses. what will happen to the wildlife? i think there is room for improvement.

  23. Renee February 12, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Great idea, but doesn’t fulfill the basic criteria of the VEC – the removal of significant volumes of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

  24. Nate February 12, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Ok, a few corrections:

    1) The person who said that thee ‘islands’ are the size of Texas is flat out wrong. A few hundred yards across at most.
    2) Even if we did build 50k of them, the effect on the ocean as a whole would be negligible. We’re talking a minuscule amount of surface coverage by these things.
    3) Finally, we aren’t going to build 50k of them, no matter how great they are. Why? Transmission issues is one that has been mentioned, but more importantly, the world is not going to bet it’s energy needs on a single source.

    At most, a few hundred of these would ever be built. Maybe a thousand or two. The key to meeting our energy needs is in multiple technologies harvesting energy in different ways. And a few hundred, even 2000, isn’t going to desalinate the ocean, change the temperature significantly or anything else.

  25. Carl February 12, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    This sounds great, but what happens if a catastrophe forces all the ammonia into our atmosphere? Is ammonia capable of poisoning our breathable air on this sort of scale? I guess it can’t be worse than whats happening currently…

  26. Andrew Barker February 12, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    From a casual glance at the areas deemed “OTEC” zones, it looks like there is some overlap with the Pacific plastic garbage islands along the southern boundaries.


    Maybe some of these energy islands could be parked in the current of plastic and use the produced energy to capture/reuse this trash. Maybe even turn it back into diesel. (

  27. amy February 12, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    i have learned more by reading all of the comments than i did reading the article. thanks everyone for your insights!

  28. Mark February 12, 2008 at 10:47 am

    I’m just a lowly engineer, but I have to correct a few points of bad science:

    1) The ocean is HUGE
    2) This process sucks heat energy out of the ocean, thereby cooling it very slightly (see point #1). Google ‘stirling engine’ for more details. I’m sure some clever climatologist could figure out precisely which current to place one of these things on to partially reverse the arctic melt, or otherwise mitigate climate change.
    3) Underwater cabling has been used successfully for years. With alternating current, losses depend only on the resistance of the cable, not the length (counterintuitive, but if you think of A/C as ‘wiggling’ electrons instead of the D/C ‘pushing’, it makes sense). Running cable through water is much cheaper than through land (no digging)…

  29. paul urbanas February 12, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Let’s build 25 and see how well we can make the ideas work.

  30. Magnus February 12, 2008 at 9:19 am

    The ocean currents of the world are driven by temperature gradients in the water. There is some evidence that several mass-extinctions during earth’s history occurred when the circulation system broke down and the oceans stagnated, releasing vast amounts of methane. We need to check the potential impact of the OTEC system to ensure it does not significantly degrade the temperature gradients (global warming is doing this anyway).
    Hopefully the impact will not be signifiacant, as renewables are the way forward.

  31. Thomas Bjelkeman-Petter... February 12, 2008 at 5:24 am

    For the latest on OTEC see OTEC News @

  32. Hugo February 12, 2008 at 4:34 am

    Providing fresh water and electricity in those regions could very well develop the third world countries. Rersources will most likely go to opec countries for obvious reasons, but could (and should) mean the big brake for underdeveloped economies!

  33. Greenguy February 12, 2008 at 1:35 am

    I think this project is fantastic, but please allow me to be the devils advocate here for a moment, it helps to see both sides:

    -Would these islands be cost effective? Do they cost a lot to build?

    -Could these islands pose a threat to marine life being that they block out the sunlight for the ocean and could animals become trapped and entangled in them at all?

    -How would they handle the many storms, hurricanes, tsunamis, etc that occur out in the ocean?
    and lastly,

    -Unless we get a progressive and enviromentally friendly president in the US, I don’t see that country sponsoring these…oil makes them more money, unfortunately. BUT there are MANY more countries out there that would!

    In short, I am really looking forward to this project moving forward and I hope it does so quickly!

  34. Esmaeil Khaksari February 12, 2008 at 1:34 am

    Remember high school chemistry, I believe that solubility of gas in a liquid is dependent upon temperature (solubility goes up as temperature goes down) and pressure (solubility goes up as pressure goes up). Using this heat differential would heat up the ocean and decrease its CO2 solubility, encouraging the release of the gas.

    Would this process be large enough to change the temperature of the ocean (or exacerbate the changes happening now)?

  35. Dave Greiman February 12, 2008 at 12:47 am

    In large numbers, what kind of impact would that have to the environment?

  36. paul February 12, 2008 at 12:20 am

    This looks great, but take a closer look at the map of the regions where this would be done… they are far from the energy using areas of the world. This will never work unless the power the islands generate can be transferred to those regions economically maybe via microwave transmitters or a deep sea cable like used for data (but look at those two vulnerabilities.

    Idea is a dream

  37. Woody February 12, 2008 at 12:16 am

    Totally agree with the above comments.
    Gives me hope, and hopefully with the profile and coverage that Sir Richard is providing with this competition the Oil & Coal Mafia will find it very difficult to suppress these obvious and absolutely necessary advances.
    How about 2 tons of fresh water each for a bi-product!

  38. Drewbr February 11, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    The energy harvested by these devices might already be at work keeping us all alive. Most of the worlds Oxygen is supplied by the vast oceans. How much the earths surface and by association breathable atmosphere would need be compromised to satisfy humans need for electricity? I strongly urge everyone to consider this with great caution.

  39. Dan February 11, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    OTEC is neat; they’ve been working on it at NELHA on the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, but I don’t think they’ve done a large-scale production version.

  40. Sepehr Sadighpour February 11, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    Does warming the ocean bed have any consequences we should know about?

  41. Donald February 11, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    While this is really neat, I can’t see how it will power the world. Transporting 250MW of power per station to the actually habitable places on earth is difficult. Especially from the middle of the ocean. Even in the Gulf of Mexico, without cheap room-temperature super conductors the power loss transporting the power to Canada (or any state not in the south) would be enormous. Perhaps if we had some material that would act as a super-conductor at 5 degrees C (the bottom of the OTEC), but otherwise this just doesn’t make sense.

  42. Phaedrus February 11, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Wow, everything old is new again: This idea was first tried almost a CENTURY ago! Don’t believe me? Try checking out Jerry Pournelle’s book, “A Step Further Out”, available through his website. (

    If I remember correctly, the original attempt was made in relatively shallow water, because that’s where you find the greatest temperature difference in the shortest distance. They also used an ammonia-based fluid, and the prototype worked well. The only problem was that early 1900’s metals didn’t fare well with such a corrosive fluid, so it was discontinued.

  43. Hotrock3 February 11, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    I really doubt that it could handle the hurricanes that occur in those area. I would put my money on Nuclear Power. It is much safer than it was in the past. With the designs now it would literally take a few bunker busters to destroy the reactor vessel because of the thickness of reinforced concrete. The only problem would be cost and build time, which would be greatly decreased if environmentalists would quit making a big deal about how destructive they are to the environment. By saying “no they are to hazardous to the environment” and delaying or even stopping the construction they are forcing us to rely on coal even longer.

  44. Adam February 11, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    How large are the islands? And how close together can they be? Looking at the map, I wonder if there is room for 50,000 islands in the marked area “Where OTEC will work”.

  45. Mark William Darbyshire February 11, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    That’s really interesting. However, I see two big challenges:
    – How is the electricity then transferred to the countries where it’s used?
    – Would the “energy islands” be able to stand up to tropical hurricanes and cyclones?

    No doubt lots of thought has been (or at least will be) given to these issues, and there will no doubt be some sort of solution.

    Some other possible problems:
    – That’s a huge amount of fresh water to be pumping out. Could this have any adverse environmental impacts? I suppose, whether put straight back into the sea or first used, the water eventually ends up back in the sea and mixing with the salt, so there shouldn’t be any major problems.
    – That’s a lot of building in faraway places, and it requires lots of resources and labour. This could have all sorts of difficulties and impacts.

    Anyway, overall this seems like a great idea.

  46. Chuyzoz February 11, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Absolutely brilliant… hope it picks up. and an investment is made

  47. Alexander Moore February 11, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    It’s great to see someone trying OTEC again. There was actually a prototype OTEC station built in Hawaii that took advantage of the steep drop-offs around the Hawaiian islands to create the temperature differential.

  48. Peter February 11, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    That’s great. That really is.

    So, um, tell me, how do we get that electricity to Europe and North America? ’cause electricty is a sort of an instant thing.

    Just saying.

  49. Stephen February 11, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    How do they plan to get the energy to where its needed?

  50. Chad Dailey February 11, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    How is transmission loss compensated for? Landlocked temperate zones would not appear to be well serviced by such a design, unless a fantastic method of reducing transmission loss has been invented to get the power to those places. Still, it’s a good idea for coastal areas.

  51. keith February 11, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    If you desalinate water the extra salt will go into the ocean and raise the salinity of the ocean which will harm all it’s animals, fish etc.. the rest of the idea is great.

  52. Jose Sanchez February 11, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    So what happens to the ocean ecosystem when you’re draining massive amounts of heat and dumping desalinated water on the surface?

  53. Paul February 11, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    This seams like a great idea, but has anyone done an in depth study to see what the effects would be of heating the ocean water at that depth? I realize that the ocean is the worlds largest heat sink, but if you were to put a few thousand of these in the gulf of mexico, I would think it would affect oceanic life by dramatically changing the temperature at depth.

  54. the english guy February 11, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    It gives all of us hope that something can be done about the problems we face. How realistic is this though?

  55. Marianne February 11, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    I am all for alternative energy, and I was excited about this until the article mentioned that this process will produce 2 tons of desalinated water per person, per day for the entire world population, How many days of this do you think will it take before the salt water ecosystems are adversely affected? Not too many, I fear.

  56. Dave February 11, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    I was going to post a list of questions, but I found that the attached documents answered a lot of them.

    1. Power transmission? Transmitting power would be done through power lines (if close enough to shore, or shore based), or through making energy intensive products (such as hydrogen) which would be used on shore for power generation. Not as efficient, but if it’s a renewable source, that’s not as much of a concern.

    2. Environmental problems? During the process, the nutrient rich water is actually pumped back up to the surface, potentially being an environmental boon rather than problem. While I’m sure there are many open environmental type questions, potentially this would be a net positive. Plus, as reef makers have long known, any structure added to the middle of the ocean quickly becomes a life oasis. So if these were made correctly, they’d add “homes” for fish stock rather than cause damage.

    Very interesting proposal. Really doubt it will happen, but that’s just because it’s a good idea, and too often good ideas don’t take fruit.

  57. zach paz February 11, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    theres hope for the world now

  58. Mark Fradl February 11, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    My question is, how do they transmit the energy to population centers? It’s been my (perhaps wrong) understanding that we could put huge fields of solar collectors in the desert and provide more than enough power for the country but the problem is transmitting the energy hundreds of miles – seemingly the same problem here.

    Anyone with information to enlighten me on this it would be much appreciated- thanks!

  59. Expositor February 11, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Interesting, but what about the algeal blooms these islands will create by circulating the cold, nutrient rich water of the oceanic depths up to the sunlight sea surface? Also, how would this alter the ecology of the deep sea life? Could this disturb the sedimentation process so important for the natural removal of CO2 from the carbon cycle? Also, with rising sea temperatures already threating sea life, is it a good idea to speed this rise?

    These are just some questions that this technology should raise. Like every “green” technology, there are real downsides to its use, and the economic problems these floating islands will face might doom them. Remember, a technology has to be able to not only make power but be able to sell it at a competitive price in order to succeed.

  60. David February 11, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    These floating islands are nothing short of brilliant. Utilizing the temperature difference, solar energy, wind energy and in all honesty these could easily include Wave Rams as yet another ‘green factory’ to make such an island that would make Big Oil have a heart attack. Don’t worry Big Oil, I’m sure it’l take a good deal of your fuels to build the first few of these.

  61. Matt February 11, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    This is contradictory, because on the one hand they say Ammonia is being used to drive a turbine, on the other they say fresh water is a byproduct. Fresh water is only a byproduct for open loop OTEC. Ammonia is used in closed loop OTEC. In my opinion, the fresh water is a much more valuable product.

  62. Bryan February 11, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    I think this is an ok idea but what is failed to be mentioned is how big those islands are – THEY ARE HUGE – size of Texas and how much ammonia is needed for this process. If by some chance a terrorist blew up the island, the ammonia alone would kill trillions of fish and contaminate the ocean.

  63. uhhh February 11, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Ammonia in the ocean….. Hurricanes….. This seems like another environmental disaster waiting to happen. How mush surface area of the ocean are we talking about too, since the sun needs to hit the water fro photoplanktin to live, etc…

    You can generate power from waves without the ammonia.

  64. John February 11, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    I have one question. Would this process effect the temperature of the ocean? I mean…if the process is accelerated due to increase demand from countries/industries, does tthis mean we would be throwing the entire global enviromental off- balance.

    I am playing devil’s advocate… “could this also limited the amount of time the ocean needs to cycle this cold/warm warm?”

    As it is …and as we have seen from scientist such as in “the inconvient truth” and beyond… the earth is delicately balanced.

    Is this step to dramatic?…. we need to hold the intergrity of the renewable energy source up above any benefits that we may gain from it. If we don’t, 100-200 yrs from now we will end up in the same situation that we are in now. Maybe worse.

  65. Matt February 11, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Umm…what happens when there are really big waves?

  66. PaulGuise February 11, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    This is indeed a great idea and one that is technologically feasible today. And in addition to Jonathans comment, they could be made cheap enough and en mass so that a loss of one or a few even wouldn’t be troubling power wise. Its either make them disposable (to a point) or sink them in case of an oncoming hurricane (which is nifty if you think about it). One could also move them but this approach would be more difficult to achieve; these are anchored to the ocean flow and to power cables after all.
    Still, this is a great idea and I hope to see it implemented soon.

  67. Mike February 11, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    What’s the size of these things? If they’re too big, 50,000 of them would cause some impact on the surface of the ocean. Possibly blocking a large area of plankton from survival. While I doubt there’d be much of a significant, impact, you’ve got to remember, here’s alway a minus folks. Nothing is all good. Especially where energy interests are involved.

    That being said, I’ll be cheering them on. Sounds like a great concept.

  68. eco gordon February 11, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    I think it is cool that the energy islands could also provide a fresh water source. Talk about a win win situation.

  69. Evan February 11, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    My favorite part has to be that he’s not putting all his eggs in one basket. We got solar, wind, as well as the water turbine. Very excited for how pessimistic I usually am.

  70. Matt February 11, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    I’m confused as to how this is anymore Green than the burning of petroleum fuels? Alot of renewable energy folk are quite respectable but energy in = energy out right? There will never be a be-all end-all solution to renewable clean energy. Has there been a study on what sort of affect this might have on sea temperatures given a massive network of 50,000 of these hexagons? What sort of wildlife are we going to affect by covering over certain habitats, etc? Green power shouldn’t just mean Co2 free.

  71. Johnny Chimpo February 11, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Re: Jonathan

    Hurricanes do not exist at or near the equator, so this would largely mitigate the problem.

  72. Jonathan February 11, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    That’s really cool–what great “out-of-the-box” thinking. I wonder if the “floating island” will be able to withstand hurricanes experienced in these areas?

  73. Carol February 11, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    It’s great that OTEC is going to be showcased in this way – it is definitely one of the simplest and most benign forms of energy we can develop. Blocked for many years throughout the 20th century by the oil and coal interests, it is a safe alternative to nuclear power as well. For years Shamcher Bryn Beorse worked at the Richmond Field Station at University of California on OTEC prototypes, both during the 1950s and again in the 1970s during the oil crisis in the US. The whole system has been tested and has been good to go for decades now. Some of his work can be seen here at Maybe this launch at the Virgin Earth Challenge will give it the push needed to become our energy source for the future.

  74. Fred Thompson February 11, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    This is one of the most hopeful sources of renewal energy that I have seen to date, I hope that it picks up steam…

  75. Yoli February 11, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    That is so amazing, I would love to know more. This gives so much hope.

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