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Originally published August 7 2010

Hawaiian ocean water could be used to produce renewable energy

by Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A team of researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa believe that ocean water on the Leeward side of the Hawaiian islands -- that is, the downwind side -- can be used to produce clean, renewable energy. They say ocean-based renewable energy plants may one day be able to use both warm and cold ocean water in the area to power heat engines, ultimately generating a steady stream of renewable energy.

The Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy refers to this technology as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). The way it works is a heat engine is installed between warm water at the surface and cold water underneath. Both streams are captured by the engine's turbines and used to spin them, generating electricity.

The technology has been around for a while, but has yet to become widely used due to the relatively low cost of oil and other fossil fuels. In other words, there has not been an urgent need for this type of energy generation technology, so funding for it is limited.

But as nations gradually shy away from high polluting fuels like oil and towards cleaner, more renewable energy sources, the need for OTEC plants may soon arise. And since Hawaii's Leeward shores have an ideal balance of both cold and warm waters, they would be the perfect place to install these engines.

"Testing that was done in the 1980s clearly demonstrates the feasibility of this technology," explained Gerard Nihous from the University of Hawaii. "Now it's just a matter of paying for it."

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