OTEC and Sea Solar Power, 1880's - Present

Although Ocean Thermal Energy has a long and interesting history, it was J. Hilbert Anderson and his son, James H. Anderson Jr., founders of Sea Solar Power Inc., were the first to propose a way to harness this unusual resource economically. Prior to beginning an exhaustive study of OTE in 1962, Hilbert Anderson had extensive experience designing refrigeration and heat power cycles. In 1965, father and son published “Large Scale Sea Thermal Power,” the first of several papers explaining how established practices in refrigeration and ocean engineering could be innovatively applied. Some OTE Milestones:


SSP 4MW vapor turbine
inlet casting

  • 1880’s -- OTE first proposed by French physicist Jacques d’Arsonval.
  • 1920’s -- Georges Claude, one of d’Arsonval’s students, builds a test plant using the warm water effluent from a power plant in France.
  • 1930’s -- Claude builds a 60Kw open cycle land-based plant at the Bay of Mantanzas, Cuba. Claude later attempts a floating plant.
  • 1940’s -- French energy company starts construction of land-based plant at Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Abandons project when hydroelectric dam goes into service nearby.
  • 1960’s -- Andersons’ first papers: MIT Bachelor’s Thesis, 1963, Power Magazine, 1964, and American Society of Mechanical Engineers technical paper and Mechanical Engineering Magazine in 1965.
  • 1972 -- Hilbert Anderson addresses National Science Foundation’s Solar Energy Panel.
  • 1973-- US Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) launches OTE program, eventually spending over $200 million on conceptual, environmental, and feasibility studies.
  • Early 1980’s --ERDA confirms that OTE is technologically and commercially viable.
  • ERDA’s successor, the Department of Energy, invites private industry to take over.
  • Mid-1980’s --Mini-OTE floating plant using a refrigerant working fluid operates in Hawaii.
  • Late 1980’s --Tokyo Electric builds a small land-based demonstration plant using a refrigerant working fluid on Nauru (www.otecnews.org/articles/nauru/html).
  • 1990’s -- By the early 1990’s it becomes clear from the experience of pilot plants and heat exchanger tests in ocean conditions that OTE heat exchangers can be made from inexpensive aluminum alloys and don’t require expensive cupronickel or titanium. It also becomes clear that bio-fouling of the heat exchanger surfaces can be controlled with small amounts of chlorination (//library.greenocean.org/oteclibrary/otecpapers/otec%20 history.pdf).
  • 2000’s ---India’s Institute for Energy Studies has been working on construction of a small floating plant (www.niot.res.in).
  • Price of oil bottoms at $10/barrel in1998 and then, in 2006 and 2007, surges to between $60 and $80/b. For tropical island nations and others who generate electricity from oil, OTE becomes especially attractive.

There have been numerous other investigators and proponents of OTE besides the Andersons. A very brief listing would name the following: Bryan Beorse, Dr. Clarence Zener, Westinghouse; Dr. Abraham Lavi, Carnegie Mellon; Dr. William Heronemus, Un. Of Massachusetts; Dr. William Avery, Johns Hopkins, Applied Physics Lab; Dr. Robert Cohen, DOE; Dr. John Craven, Un. Of Hawaii; Dr. Hans Krock, Un. Of Hawaii and OCEES, www.ocees.com

Inventor of Sea Solar Power

In 1962, Hilbert and son James Jr. started working on the concept of sea thermal power. Jim Jr. wrote his mechanical engineering BS thesis at MIT on an application of a sea thermal power plant off the coast of Florida in the Gulf Stream. Later they published articles in Power Magazine and a cover story in Mechanical Engineering magazine on sea thermal power in 1966. Read More...

Studies and Successes

Significant sums of money have been paid to engage energy and process engineers to conduct professional engineering appraisals to determine the merit of the Sea Solar Power OTEC design for commercial application. Read More...