Technology to replace the diesel generators currently providing power for small island developing states is being advanced by the PLOTEC consortium of seven European companies. The focus is on ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) systems for these areas prone to severe weather events such as hurricanes and typhoons.

The floating OTEC system under development consists of a cold-water riser pipe, which is being fabricated in Austria, a cylindrical hull to be constructed in the Canary Islands, and a gimbal connection point. Once the fabrication phase is concluded, the prototype will be assembled and installed about 3 km of the coast of the Canary Islands and tested under Atlantic Ocean conditions for about one year.

Simulation of the full floating OTEC weather-resistant structure. Source: PLOTEC Simulation of the full floating OTEC weather-resistant structure. Source: PLOTEC

In addition to being engineered to enhance tropical storm survivability, the full-scale structure is also configured to be disconnected in the case of extreme weather conditions and moved to a safe harbor until after the storm. It can be moved back as soon as the weather improves and reconnected to start generating electricity immediately.

"This prototype will provide us with the perfect opportunity test our cylindrical hull and gimbal solutions in 20m equivalent waves and hone our offshore connection and disconnection procedure allowing us to maximize asset lifetime and availability even in storm prone regions," said Sam Johnston, lead engineer at Global OTEC, one of the partners of the project.

Other project participants include Cleantech Engineering Limited (U.K.), WavEC Offshore Renewables (Portugal), The Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands PLOCAN (Spain), Quality Culture (Italy), Agru Kunststofftechnik Gesellschaft m.b.H. (Austria) and University of Plymouth School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics (U.K.).

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