The Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation has developed a set of breakthrough technologies that use cold seawater to provide clean energy, air conditioning, and fresh drinking water. By combining Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion with Seawater Air Conditioning (SWAC), the company has discovered a way to provide these resources without burning fossil fuels. The company is launching their first project in the Bahamas, which, as a coastal region, will be hugely affected by the sea-level rise and reef destruction that are associated with global climate change.
Photo: First Land Based OTEC Facility at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii
Air conditioners are an environmental nightmare that harm the planet in two ways – they consume huge amounts of electricity and they contain and emit harmful coolant gasses. The use of air conditioners releases carbon into the atmosphere, which increases global temperatures, which means we need more air conditioning, and so on. This process is a positive feedback loop that, if left undisrupted, dramatically quickens the pace of climate change.
Seawater Air Conditioning offers a solution – the technology uses cold deep seawater instead of common polluting refrigerants used by conventional air conditioning systems to avoid this feedback loop entirely. OTEC’s Seawater Air Conditioning plants use long pipelines to draw cold water from deep beneath the ocean’s surface. This water is then circulated through buildings to cool them down.
Why should we make the switch? There are two reasons. One, SWAC has been proven to use 90% less electricity than standard air conditioning systems, which significantly decreases carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Two, SWAC can save “hundreds of millions of dollars” in electricity costs when used to cool large structures.
The Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation is located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and it has projected gross revenues ranging from $400 – $800 million. The members of the company’s advisory board have impressive backgrounds ranging from the former Legislative Director at the Environmental Defense Fund to the former Governor of Pennsylvania, the Honorable Edward Rendell.
As oil prices rise and carbon builds up in the atmosphere, we will need to transition to cleaner forms of energy production in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. The Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation is one of a number initiatives that can reduce our impact on this fragile earth, and it provides inspiration for similar projects whose impacts are environmentally and economically sustainable. OTE Corporation has not found a silver bullet solution to climate change, but they’ve certainly found the potential to be a close second copper.