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"In science fiction one can say a great many things that are unpalatable, … because it's expressed as science fiction you can slip it past their defenses."
- Frederik Pohl

Oceanic Thermal Energy Converter  
  A device that uses the sea to help create electricity.  

This novel provides a fully realized version of a technology that is only just being explored today; on an average day, the tropical seas of Earth absorb solar energy equivalent to 250 billion barrels of oil.

The immense grid of the Oceanic Thermal Energy Converter appeared above them. Distantly the announcer discussed the OTEC generators and how power for Xanadu - and for export in the form of methane and liquid hydrogen - was extracted by harvesting the ocean's heat differential. Engineering geeks .. clustered in fascination.
From Saturn's Race, by Larry Niven (w/S. Barnes).
Published by Tor in 2000
Additional resources -

Harvesting thermal energy from the ocean was first proposed in 1881 by Jacques Arsene d'Arsonval, a French physicist. The first demonstration unit to produce real net power was a closed-cycle plant in Hawaii; it created 15 kWe of net power.

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is a real technology in the process of being developed:

"OTEC, or ocean thermal energy conversion, is an energy technology that converts solar radiation to electric power. OTEC systems use the ocean's natural thermal gradient—the fact that the ocean's layers of water have different temperatures—to drive a power-producing cycle. As long as the temperature between the warm surface water and the cold deep water differs by about 20°C (36°F), an OTEC system can produce a significant amount of power. The oceans are thus a vast renewable resource, with the potential to help us produce billions of watts of electric power."
(from the National Renewable Energy Lab's OTEC page.)

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Saturn's Race
  More Ideas and Technology by Larry Niven (w/S. Barnes)
  Tech news articles related to Saturn's Race
  Tech news articles related to works by Larry Niven (w/S. Barnes)

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