After the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant crisis, not many would recommend building a nuclear plant in our native land. In the face of the surging energy shortage, the common Filipino asks, “Should we still insist in having one?”
The search for a safe and renewable source of energy is the common trend of the new era. Most modern countries have switched from the gold-rush of nuclear energy to eco-friendly sources. Energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are naturally replenished is projected as the way to the future.
Though abundant with such resources, we seem to place a blind eye on those we already have. Some areas in the country already use hydroelectricity, geothermal, wind turbines, etc. To help improve the country’s source of energy researchers now set their eyes on our best resource; the ocean. One still unexplored area that may ultimately be the key to energy sufficiency is the ocean’s thermal energy. To date, the DOE’s studies done in partnership with Japanese scientists show that there are 16 conceivable areas for the so-called Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion technology, or OTEC.
Just what is Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion? OTEC uses the difference between cooler deep and warmer shallow or surface ocean waters to run a heat engine and produce electricity. Such energy coming from the ocean is not to be underestimated. We can only imagine how massive our share of energy from the Pacific Ocean and large bodies of water surrounding us can provide. To an engineer this implies that there are two enormous reservoirs providing the heat source and the heat sink required for a heat engine. A practical application is found in a system (heat engine) designed to transform the thermal energy into electricity. This is referred to as OTEC.
Fr. Daniel McNamara SJ PhD, an astro-geophysicist at the AdDU, concur The price of constructing and running a 200 MW coal powerplant is nowhere to be compared to the efficiency of OTEC. It will probably cost much in making one but in the long run, it is far safer and OTEC does not require refuelling at all. â€
It is estimated that on an annual basis, the amount of solar energy absorbed by the ocean is equivalent to at least 4000 times the amount presently consumed by humans, and is a renewable one. For an OTEC efficiency of 3 percent in converting ocean thermal energy to electricity, we would need less than 1 percent of this renewable energy to satisfy all of our desires for energy. To add, the removal of such relatively small amount of energy from the ocean does not pose any harmful environmental impact. The means to transform such a vast energy reservoir to a useful form has alredy been identified and several prototypes are already tested worldwide.
Globally, the technology is still being developed, but the Philippines may become the first to use this form of energy. The Philippines has a potential 170,000 MW of energy supply from the ocean. As Fr. McNamara noted, “It’s good. It’s better for us because it’s renewable.”