Martinique Planning to Develop Ocean Thermal Energy Project

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - July 22, 2014

Above: a rendering of the proposed project

By the Caribbean Journal staff

Martinique is planning to develop an ocean thermal energy project.

Ocean thermal energy uses the heat energy stored in the ocean to generate electricity, capitalizing on the temperature difference between the warmer top layer of the ocean and colder, deep ocean water.

While there are several versions of the concept, ocean thermal technology works through open-cycle thermal conversion, which uses warm surface water to make electricity; when warm seawater is placed in a low-pressure container, it boils, with the steam driving a turbine. The steam is then condensed back into a liquid by exposure to cold temperatures from the deeper ocean water.

Another method, closed-cycle conversion, uses fluids like ammonia to power the turbines.

Martinique’s plan, revealed this week the department’s regional council President, Serge Letchimy, would involve the construction of a floating central thermal energy plant off the coast of the island.

The floating plant would have a net capacity of 10.7 megawatts.

Earlier this month, the European Commission approved the allocation of public funding for the project, which is being jointly developed by Martinique’s government, the Akuo energy company and the DCNS group.

In a statement, Letchimy said the project represented “a promising technology, not only for Martinique, but also for the whole Caribbean and tropical environments.”

The project is part of Martinique’s NEMO programme, or the New Energy for Martinique and Overseas, which seeks to diversify the island’s energy sources away from fossil fuels.

Letchimy said the project would be a “purveyor of activities and jobs,” vowing that it would “represent Martinique as a source of pride as well as a powerful factor of inspiration for the future.”

The idea has been considered previously in the region; in 2012, Barbados said it was actively exploring the possibility of using ocean thermal energy conversion, although it’s not clear how that idea has developed.

The world’s only existing ocean thermal energy plant is located in Japan.

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