Storm-resistant OTEC prototype spotlighted at SIDS4 Conference in Antigua and Barbuda

1 June 2024, Antigua and Barbuda — A prototype that can advance Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) in storm-prone regions was the highlight of a side event at the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4). Held in Antigua and Barbuda last Monday, the session was focused on renewable ocean energy solutions, such as OTEC. The session was promoted by SIDS DOCK, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Global Ocean Energy Alliance (GLOEA). In his opening remarks, his Excellency, President Wavel Ramkalawan of the Republic of Seychelles, and President of the SIDS DOCK expressed “we are all waiting for our Dominique,” about Global OTEC’s first commercial-scale OTEC platform, destined for São Tomé and Príncipe. 

In response to the tropical storm conditions experienced by many SIDS Global OTEC spotlighted the floating OTEC storm-resistant structure being built under the EU-funded project PLOTEC, in partnership with Austrian riser manufacturer, Agru Kunststofftechnik. Currently under fabrication at the Hidramar Shipyard in Gran Canaria, Spain, the prototype will be installed for testing in the Atlantic Ocean in the upcoming months. Composed of a cylindric hull, a gimbal connection point and a cold-water pipe, the structure will advance OTEC in tropical islands that face extreme weather, such as hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones. “We are just months away from a breakthrough which will demonstrate our ability to perform OTEC anywhere in the world, crucial for responding to the 10 GW of installed diesel capacity which needs to be replaced across 32 SIDS”, said Global OTEC Founder and CEO Dan Grech. 

Happening every ten years, the SIDS4 Conference brings world leaders together to agree on a bold action plan for their specific challenges in the next decade. One of these is the renewable energy transition, as SIDS are currently almost 100% powered by fossil fuels. The progress on the 1.5MW floating OTEC platform Dominique, which will be installed in the African twin islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, was also a highlight at conference. “We urgently call for support from the international financing community including development banks and climate funds to back these transformative projects. Without your support, our efforts to prevent an energy crisis and promote sustainable growth may falter leaving our younger generations at risk and prosperity simply out of reach”,  said the President Wavel Ramkalawan of the Republic of Seychelles.


OTEC: a great fit for tropical islands 

Facing an energy crisis, commonly referred to as a “fuel trap“, SIDS desperately need sustainable alternatives for energy production. But to be more effective, renewable energy technologies need to take into account SIDS’ unique characteristics, such as limited land space and vulnerability to tropical storms. In addition, there is an urgent need to reduce electricity prices, which are currently around USD 0.25 per kWh on average, more than double the average price in the United States. In some Caribbean countries, the prices can go up to over USD 0.40 per kWh. 

As these countries rely heavily on fossil fuels, with more than 90% of their electricity supply coming from this source, the consequent high and fluctuating costs affect competitiveness, and productivity and perpetuate poverty. OTEC can help SIDS overcome its energy challenges, harnessing the power of the ocean, the islands’ main natural resource, to deliver clean and reliable power while reducing diesel costs by up to 50%.

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