The US Department of Energy has awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.2 million contract to construct a thermal piping system to capture the ocean’s absorbed solar heat.
The energy produced could be used to generate electricity or to fuel desalination, and according to the company, the process would be relatively harmless to the ocean’s environment. While scientists began fleshing out Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion in the 70’s, no one has yet been able to manufacture a workable commercial design.[social_buttons]
Military contractor Lockheed Martin’s challenge is to create piping wide and long enough to stretch down thousands of feet under the ocean, which is believed to be the only way to make the process efficient. The temperature variant is relatively small, so large volumes of water are needed to produce a commercially-viable amount of power.
“Our independent research and development work to date has shown OTEC to be technically feasible,” said Denise Saiki, the vice president and general manager of Lockheed’s Undersea Systems business unit. “The next step is to demonstrate it on a commercial scale and this DOE contract will help accelerate our progress towards that goal.”
The company first plans to develop a full-scale fiberglass and composite material prototype to demonstrate their plans to the Department of Energy. This won’t be their first prototype: In 1974, Lockheed and Bechtel created a small-scale prototype, which is still functional to this day.
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