A NASA report published in 1972(1) predicted that by using OTEC to tap the thermal energy of the Gulf Stream, the electricity needs of the US could be provided for. However, despite over one hundred years of research and development activity around the world, OTEC has not yet been commercialised. The research associated with this paper was conducted out of a curiosity as to why this remains so. Either OTEC is one of a long list of technologies, full of potential in theory, but in reality impractical, or there are other reasons why OTEC has not lived up to its often stated potential. The main purpose of the paper is to come to a conclusion as to the expected future of OTEC, and offer some suggestions as to how its development could be facilitated. A conclusion of this project that the viability of OTEC could be increased by a greater attention to the needs and conditions present in the intended markets. New energy technologies inherently face barriers in their acceptance by the energy industry, so it is important to ensure a realistic and commercial strategy is adopted in their development. Another conclusion of this paper is that one of the most promising market for OTEC as an energy generation source, in the short term, appears to be the Republic of China (Taiwan). The combination of geographic suitability, recent environmental awareness, lack of natural energy resources, and economic prosperity make it an ideal candidate for OTEC development.
It is hoped that this report will serve as a basis for future debate and also as a reference source with regards to OTEC and that some of the recommendations suggested will be considered when decisions regarding OTEC strategy are made.