Resource Estimate for Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) in the Gulf of Mexico

by Richard Y. Pei

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An analysis and first-order estimate of the thermal resource available in the Gulf of Mexico that can be profitably extracted by ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) technology. The estimate is part of an overall goal to reduce uncertainties in OTEC technology and to better understand resource constraints. Technological and oceanographic considerations critical to the deployment of an OTEC power plant are sufficient but not excessive ocean depth, distance from shore, and area traversed by the Gulf loop current system. Synthesis of these considerations results in a likely siting area off the west coast of Florida. A final consideration is the minimum spacing required among OTEC plants when many are to be deployed, to prevent adverse effects from discharge and intake. It is found that 100 to 300 plants can be deployed in a suitable area in the Gulf of Mexico that will yield a total of 10 to 30 MWe of power.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.