* One of largest facilities to use OTEC technology
* Uses heat differences in tropical waters to drive turbines
* Plant seen as step toward making OTEC commercially viable
By David Alexander
WASHINGTON, April 16 U.S. defense contractor
Lockheed Martin announced plans on Tuesday to build a green
energy power plant that will use variations in ocean water
temperature to generate electricity, taking a big step toward
making the 130-year-old concept
Lockheed signed an agreement on Saturday in Beijing
with the privately held Reignwood Group to build the 10-megawatt
offshore plant that will provide energy for a new luxury resort
on Hainan island in southern China. It will use what is known as
ocean thermal energy conversion technology, or OTEC.
"This plant will be the largest OTEC facility ever built. We
believe this to be the first signed agreement for an offshore
OTEC plant of a size significant enough to power a community,"
said Dan Heller, vice president of new ventures for Lockheed
Martin Mission Systems and Training.
A 10-megawatt plant, able to power several thousand homes,
would be a major advance in the use of OTEC and experts say it
would be a stepping stone toward building 100 megawatt plants
capable of powering small cities.
Best known for making jet fighters and missiles, Lockheed
has long been involved other areas beyond armaments. Last month,
it said it had found a way to slash the amount of energy needed
to remove salt from seawater.
"Lockheed Martin has been leading the way in advancing this
(OTEC) technology for decades," Heller said.
Lockheed is not the only firm developing OTEC. Several
countries and companies have announced plans for
intermediate-sized plants up to about 10 megawatts, most of them
based on land.
Jim Greenberg, an executive with Ocean Thermal Energy Corp.,
whose company is working on several small plants, said the
technology was ripe for development because of high petroleum
Lockheed said the agreement with Reignwood would create at
least 1,000 jobs, mainly in the United States, and could lead to
construction of additional OTEC power plants ranging in size
from 10 to 100 megawatts with a potential value of several
The OTEC process uses warm tropical waters to power a
steam-driven turbine. Cold water is pumped from the depths of
the sea to condense the steam back into liquid.
Closed-system plants like the one Lockheed plans to build
use a liquid such as ammonium that has a low boiling point to
create the steam.
Warmer surface waters pass by a heat exchanger, causing the
ammonium in the closed system to boil and create the steam that
drives the turbine. Cold deep-sea water is pumped by another
heat exchanger to condense the ammonium back to a liquid.
The Thailand-based Reignwood Group specializes in luxury
resorts and goods but also has lifestyle, low-carbon and green
energy investments. The company plans for the new resort to be
"net zero," meaning it consumes no more energy that it produces.