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An assessment of global Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion resources under broad geographical constraints
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Rates of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) are assessed with a high-resolution (1° × 1°) ocean general circulation model when broad geographical restrictions are imposed on the OTEC implementation area. This may correspond to practical or legal limitations, such as the cost of long submarine power cables or the extent of Exclusive Economic Zones. Because some environmental effects predicted under large-scale OTEC scenarios exhibit a strong asymmetry among major oceanic basins, numerical experiments where the OTEC domain is restricted to such specific areas are also conducted. Results suggest that in all cases, a rate of about 0.2 TW per Sverdrup of OTEC deep cold seawater is sustained when overall OTEC net power peaks. At that juncture, temperature profiles in the OTEC implementation areas are affected in similar ways, while the strength of the Thermohaline Circulation roughly doubles. Overall geographical constraints simply defined by distance to shore, given the model's 1° horizontal resolution, produce global OTEC net power maxima of 12–14 TW. In such cases, OTEC net power density approximately increases in inverse proportion to the OTEC implementation area. Limiting OTEC development to the Indo-Pacific yields results similar to the global case with a maximum proportional to the implementation area (12 TW), but simulations restricted to the Atlantic behave quite differently. In the latter case, OTEC net power peaks a little over 5 TW. It is estimated that producing half the predicted power maxima would substantially limit large-scale environmental temperature changes in each case.
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