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US and Chinese firms to build 10MW ocean thermal energy power plant

Lockheed Martin and Reignwood Group will develop OTEC offshore prototype plant off China’s coast as part of first project in multi-billion dollar clean energy agreement

Ocean power: The plant could lead to the development of OTEC power plants at sizes of up to 100MW

US and Chinese firms are working together to develop a world leading ocean thermal energy power plant. Lockheed Martin, a global security and aerospace company with headquarters in Maryland, US, is working with Beijing's multinational enterprise Reignwood Group to develop the 10MW Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) pilot power plant off the coast of southern China. The plant could lead to the development of OTEC power plants at sizes of up to 100MW.

Lockheed Martin will design the offshore plant, which the company claims will be the largest OTEC project developed to date. It will supply 100 per cent of the power needed for a green resort, which will be built by Reignwood Group. In addition, the agreement could lay the foundation for the development of several more OTEC power plants ranging in size from 10 to 100MW, for a potential multi-billion dollar value, Lockheed Martin said.

Dan Heller, vice president of new ventures for Lockheed Martin mission systems and training, said: "The benefits to generating power with OTEC are immense, and Lockheed Martin has been leading the way in advancing this technology for decades. Constructing a sea-based, multi-MW pilot OTEC power plant for Reignwood Group is the final step in making it an economic option to meet growing needs for clean, reliable energy."

Base load power

OTEC plants take the natural temperature difference found in the ocean in tropical regions and use it to create power. Lockheed Martin said the technology is well-suited to island and coastal communities where energy transportation costs typically make other sources of power very expensive.

Like other renewable energy technologies, OTEC plants are clean, sustainable and powered by free fuel. But unlike other technologies, Lockheed Martin said this power is base load, which means it can be produced consistently 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A commercial-scale OTEC plant will have the capability to power a small city. The energy can also be used for the cultivation of other crucial resources, such as clean drinking water and hydrogen for applications including electric vehicles.

Net-zero communities

In addition to other green energy-related projects, Reignwood Group is currently developing two large-scale low-carbon resort communities, with others planned in key locations across China. Lockheed Martin said using its OTEC technology to power a new resort will help the company to develop its first net-zero community.

Colin Liu, senior vice president of Reignwood Group, said: "Our mission at Reignwood Group is to invest in low-carbon applications and solutions, integrating these new green technologies into a plan to promote sustainable development practices. Lockheed Martin's OTEC technology offers a ground-breaking solution that will help us to achieve this mission."

Once the proposed plant is developed and operational, the two companies plan to use the knowledge gained to improve the design of additional commercial-scale plants built over the next 10 years.

The news from Lockheed Martin follows other EU-BRIC projects to develop marine energy in China over the last year. In October 2012, RET revealed China and Netherlands are working together to develop what is set to be the world's largest tidal energy scheme. The project will use what is claimed to be a new type of marine technology called Dynamic Tidal Power (DTP).