The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), an archipelago of 40 low-lying coral islands in the Atlantic Ocean, is building on its ‘Vision 2040’ policy by exploring possible Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) sites. Currently, the country is powered almost exclusively via diesel generators. As so, the population pays not only for the generation and distribution but also for the fuel factor, which has significantly increased energy bills in recent years due to global events. Renewable energy counts for less than 1% of the power consumed, although some new solar sites are planned.
Like other tropical island states, TCI faces the highest energy costs in the world and depends on new sources of power for its energy needs and to achieve its goal of reaching 33% renewable energy by 2040. Having a vast exclusive economic zone of ocean space, many multiples the area of their land waters, and being in the tropics, TCI is well suited for OTEC.
At the beginning of March, the Global OTEC team visited the country to present its technology and detail how OTEC is an ideal solution for powering the islands. The meetings were held with TCI’s government, the Energy and Utilities Department (EUD), and Fortis TCI, the company currently responsible for the energy supply. “Our desktop studies have shown TCI possesses the ideal combination of warm seawater all year round and easy access to cold deep water with continental shelves quickly falling to 1,000m (3,000 ft) within 4 kilometers of the shore. We are also very impressed by the investment and organization made into the grid and distribution network”, highlights Dan Grech, Global OTEC Founder and CEO.
OTEC is a renewable energy baseload technology that can operate 24/7, all year round. It harnesses the power of the ocean to provide a continuous, cost-effective supply of clean energy. It possesses significant environmental advantages over fossil fuels and nuclear power; requires less land than renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind, biomass, and hydroelectric power; and has the potential to produce far more valuable and affordable energy than could be generated from other renewable sources. “We have produced cyclonic MetOcean models for the 100-year storm near Providenciales to validate that the performance of our floating OTEC platform will be suitable for tropical storm zones like this”, adds Grech.
Environmental and social impacts of OTEC on TCI
Based on existing academic and research papers in the public domain, the environmental impacts of an OTEC platform are believed to be minimal but require further research. A full Environmental & Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report, compliant with international standards, will need to be conducted to identify and address any points of concern. The operational noise and vibration levels will be addressed from an OTEC system design perspective and comply with ESIA recommendations for marine flora and fauna.
On what concerns severe weather conditions, Global OTEC is currently executing an R&D project on Gran Canaria called PLOTEC, under which a new offshore platform more resistant to tropical storms will be developed and tested. At the same time, Dominique, the OTEC project for Sao Tome and Principe, will be implemented by 2025, demonstrating the commercial scale of the OTEC technology.