OTEC International chosen for NELHA demonstration


OTEC InternationalOTEC International LLC (OTI) was selected to build a one-megawatt demonstration plant by the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) to test the full power cycle of ocean thermal energy conversion for electricity.

Baltimore-based OTI has built its OTEC design on decades of innovation, combining proprietary technology with off-the-shelf components. Privately funded OTI has not relied on government money and expects to be first-to-market with a commercial plant.

OTI is currently negotiating a power purchase agreement with Hawaiian Electric Company for a 100-megawatt (MW) plant and with Caribbean Utilities Company and others for 25 MW plants. ABS, which sets standards of excellence and classifies marine-related facilities, has awarded OTI Approval-in-Principle for a floating renewable energy plant in both 25 MW and 100 MW models. It is ABS’s first for such an energy plant.

OTEC uses vast solar energy stored in the upper ocean to vaporize ammonia, producing electricity via a turbine and generator. Deep water cools the ammonia to liquid to be heated again in a 24/7 cycle, making it baseload or firm power.

The demonstration plant is slated for the NELHA’s Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology (HOST) Park, in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Island. The demonstration will integrate the complete power system on a smaller scale to reduce risk for its first full-scale commercial project. Barry Cole, OTI’s executive VP, is director of technology development.

OTI was selected from four responses to NELHA’s call for proposal.

“We are glad the NELHA board recognized the careful planning of our excellent team,” said Eileen O’Rourke, OTI’s chief operating officer. “Our main funder, The Abell Foundation, has invested substantially in advancing OTEC research over the last 11 years, proving its commitment to this exciting power source.”

OTI will build a pilot plant at NELHA to produce net electricity, rather than simply test components. NELHA’s HOST Park has infrastructure in place to provide a head start for full-cycle demonstration.

“OTI’s demonstration plant will advance NELHA’s stature as the world’s premier research and development site for OTEC,” O’Rourke said.

Over the anticipated 30-year life of the demonstration plant, OTI intends to hone OTEC technology, components and operations.


  1. Happy to see OTEC gaining some momentum and respect in Hawaii, but didn’t NELHA test an OTEC plant in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s? We all know it works, and the rest of the world is about to pass Hawaii and become leaders in the technology. The Bahamas recently signed an agreement to build 2 commercial OTEC plants, and other Caribbean nations are lining up to harness the power themselves. Lots more news and info on OTEC happenings around the world at The On Project.


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