Lockheed Martin is progressing with Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion. Known as OTEC, this technology leverages the ocean’s natural thermal gradient to generate power.
In geographical areas with warm surface water and cold deep water, the temperature difference can be leveraged to drive a steam cycle that turns a turbine and produces power. Warm surface sea water passes through a heat exchanger, vaporizing a low boiling point working fluid to drive a turbine generator, producing electricity.
This process can serve as a baseload power generation system that produces a significant amount of renewable, non-polluting power, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Military shore-side bases and communities in the tropics, many of which are largely dependent on imported fossil fuels for power and transportation, are ideal candidates for such a system.
Additionally, OTEC power can be used to produce energy carriers such as hydrogen and ammonia, which can be shipped to areas not close to OTEC resources. The system can also include fresh-water production by flash evaporating the warm sea water and condensing the subsequent water vapor using cold sea water.
Lockheed Martin’s history with OTEC began in the 1970s, where the heritage Lockheed Martin Ocean Systems Division, based in Sunnyvale, California, developed a mini OTEC plant, which ran for three months and successfully generated 50 kilowatts of electricity.
Since 2009, the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command has awarded Lockheed Martin $12.5 million to develop critical OTEC system components and advance the design for an OTEC pilot plant, an essential step in developing large-scale utility plants.