I have read with enthusiasm Mr. Merv Baer's letter (see Writer Says WAPA Could Have Had Free Fuel.) It is encouraging that residents of the Virgin Islands are keeping abreast of potential future solutions to our present total dependence on imported fuel oil.
OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion) is a renewable technology that utilizes the solar energy stored in the world's oceans to produce electrical energy, potable water and/or mariculture. In a closed-cycle system, the warm ocean surface waters are used to boil a low-boiling-point liquid to produce steam for turning a turbine/generator set to produce electricity. The used steam is condensed back into liquid form with the cold waters from the ocean's depths to restart the cycle in a continuous process. Other OTEC technologies use the same differentials in temperatures between the surface and the depths in the oceans for these purposes, namely, open-cycle and hybrid systems.
The state of Hawaii, through federal grants, has experimented with the components and with small-scale prototypes of this technology, and it may turn out to be a real renewable energy solution for the many countries around the world located in a sun-belt near the equator. All that is required is access to deep, cold ocean waters and warm surface waters close to shore. Such a site is found on the north shore of St. Croix.
There is only one significant glitch with this technology: to date, no such commercial plant has ever been built. An entity now claims to have overcome the economic challenges to building a feasible plant because of breakthroughs in design/construction of the huge size of pipes and heat exchangers required in its operation. WAPA has invited this entity to participate in the Request for Proposals for Alternative Energy Sources. We hope that what they have propounded can be delivered and be competitive with other sources that will respond to the invitation.
I hope this addresses the concern and interest of Mr. Baer.
Executive Director (CEO)
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