OTEC Update

 OTEC update

The second Sufi Murshid my life has been entwined with is Shamcher,  Bryn Beorse. My book, Shamcher, a personal memoir of Bryn Beorse’s struggle to introduce ocean energy to the United States, is a download now for $4.95. It’s a good tool for citizens interested in the history of the struggle to develop OTEC, ocean thermal energy conversion.

Chapter 5 in the book Shamcher is called OTEC, Inc. On the first page of this chapter, there is the mission statements of the company I wanted Shamcher to spearhead back in 1977. He declined; then died. Reluctantly, in June of 2009, I picked up the mantle I wanted to give to Shamcher.  omimmiiiiiin inii

I made a business card for OTEC, Inc., which I described as a sole proprietorship since 1977. And I accepted the responsibility to build some OTEC plants, which, again, is what I wanted Shamcher to do. In December, 2009, I wrote a flurry of letters to a number of recipients with the sentence, “I want to build an OTEC plant in Cuba with Venezuelan oil money.”

When I interviewed Deborah James in Caracas in 2005, I found out she knew Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Around that time, I conceived of the idea to approach PDVSA, the Venezuelan oil company, to fund some OTECs. Meanwhile, Reine Orlay Cruz Diaz, Director of GEOPROP, a branch of CITMA, the Ministry of Science and Technology and Environment in Cuba, received my letter at the end of 2009 and ordered Dr. Julio Diaz Diaz, PhD head of the OTEC group at the University of Mantanzas in Cuba, to answer me tout suite, right away.

Mantanzas Bay was where Georges Claude the Frenchman demonstrated the viability of OTEC in 1929. What a fitting déjà vu if Cuba could do it again, at the same place, now, today.

Of course, I needed some technical expertise to accomplish my task. In 2007, I had attended an OTEC conference in Hawaii. I looked for a technical team which in my judgment was the most capable of building OTEC plants. I chose Tom. At the end of 2009, Tom was interested in the Cuba project.

Tom and I went to Cuba in March, 2010, and held three days of talks with the OTEC Group at our hotel and in Mantanzas. Each side made a key discovery.

The Cubans learned that I did not have 60 million dollars to build the OTEC Development Center that Tom’s partner had designed for them. We (Tom and I) learned that the temperature differences in Mantanzas Bay were not ideal. The bay wasn’t deep enough.

To deal with the insufficient temperature differences, Dr. Diaz wanted to use waste heat from the fossil fuel power plant next to the Georges Claude site to augment the temperature of the surface water. This, again, is because Mantanzas Bay is not 1000 m deep. [It should be stated for those new to this technology that a temperature difference between surface water and deep water is necessary to produce power from the temperature differences in the ocean.] Ideally, if the surface water is 72 degrees F. and the deep water is 3000 feet, the conditions are just right for an OTEC plant to generate power.

We thought it would be impossible to obtain funding for a renewable energy project that used fossil fuel, a form of power generation that we wanted to replace. But we had learned that the Cubans could manufacture a plastic pipe 1 meter in diameter. So we proposed building a number of small plants using a pipe size the Cubans could manufacture and install.

Key to the project was the backing of MINBAS, the basic industries, cabinet level department of the Cuban government. If MINBAS supported OTEC development for Cuba, I reasoned, PDVSA, because of their existing ties to Cuba, might be willing to fund the project.

We are waiting for their decision. The Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. has received reports [including 8 pages penned by Dr. Diaz] of our meetings, and has not acknowledged any of it.

Starting October 4, 2010, I’m going back to work as a stage hand, after a year off when yours truly operating as OTEC, Inc. sought to create an ocean thermal energy industry in Cuba. I remain ready to go to D.C. to speak to the Venezuelans if MINBAS responds favorably, but for now I'm going to take off my entrepreneur's hat and start earning some money the old-fashioned way, by doing a job.