The global techno-economic potential of floating, closed-cycle ocean thermal energy conversion

Jannis Langer*, Kornelis Blok

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is an emerging renewable energy technology using the ocean’s heat to produce electricity. Given its early development stage, OTEC’s economics are still uncertain and there is no global assessment of its economic potential, yet. Here, we present the model pyOTEC that designs OTEC plants for best economic performance considering the spatiotemporally specific availability and seasonality of ocean thermal energy resources. We apply pyOTEC to more than 100 regions with technically feasible sites to obtain an order-of-magnitude estimation of OTEC’s global technical and economic potential. We find that OTEC’s global technical potential of 107 PWh/year could cover 11 PWh of 2019 electricity demand. At ≥ 120 MWgross, there are OTEC plants with Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) below 15 US¢(2021)/kWh in 15 regions, including China, Brazil, and Indonesia. In the short-to-medium term, however, small island developing states are OTEC’s most relevant niche. Systems below 10 MWgross could fully and cost-effectively substitute Diesel generators on islands where that is more challenging with other renewables. With the global analysis, we also corroborate that most OTEC plants return the best economic performance if designed for worst-case surface and deep-sea water temperatures, which we further back up with a sensitivity analysis. We lay out pyOTEC’s limitations and fields for development to expand and refine our findings. The model as well as key data per region are publically accessible online.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-103
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Ocean Engineering and Marine Energy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Economic potential
  • Global analysis
  • Ocean thermal energy conversion
  • Off-design
  • Renewable energy


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