The project team on October 17 2014. (Photo courtesy Dr. Sagredo)
Electricity shortages represent one of the major problems facing the Dominican Republic. For more than 50 years, the country has experienced daily electric power blackouts lasting some four to five hours. The cost of electricity in the Dominican Republic is more than 2.5 times the average cost worldwide, which causes financial hardships not only for the general public but also for operators of the large hotels that contribute substantially to the country's economy. Air conditioning uses approximately 60% of the electricity consumed in tourist areas of the Dominican. Given the high cost of electricity and frequent power outages, implementation of a reliable, renewable, and nonpolluting energy source that can supply air conditioning to these hotels would represent the difference between economic survival versus bankruptcy, with its associated severe impacts on local employment.
This PEER Science project is designed to develop a model for how such an energy system could be designed and implemented. Dr. Sagredo and his team will place remote sensors at regular intervals along the sea bed to gather data to create an Ocean Temperature Profile from the city of Puerto Plata extending eight miles north until a depth of 1,000 meters is reached. The data collected will provide input to the design of a pipe along the sea floor that would extract the cold bearing water to the surface at Puerto Plata to provide a cold-water supply for air conditioning. Besides designing the pipe, the researchers will also study potential environmental impacts of their system, as well as optimization of the energy that would be needed to pump the seawater. Once their designs and models are complete, they will share their findings with local stakeholders, including hotel operators and entrepreneurs who might be interested in supporting implementation of the system after the PEER Science project is complete.
Summary of Recent Activities
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The third quarter of 2014 focused primarily on the offshore gathering of data by Dr. Segrado and his team. The temperature and pressure data, collected from two distinct axes, will be critical to the project’s success and the team received the excellent results that they expected. The team is also developing a 3D printed prototype Rankine cycle that will give them the experience of running and managing a halogenated cycle, which will power the main extracting pump. Other aspects of the project that are being designed and built are the shore side pump house and a 1600kW turbine.
During this time, Dr. Segrado and his team also promoted the research project and its potential at two separate events. On August 4, the team was a guest on Sabios en la Z, one of the most popular radio stations in the Dominican Republic, and discussed the possibilities that can result from their PEER-funded project. The local newspaper in the City of Puerto Plaza, EI FARO, also published the broadcast for the team. On September 26, the team presented their project to 96 alumnae of the Instituto Tecnologico de Monterrey of Mexico. This is a prominent alumnae group that only invites presenters whose work is of great importance to the Dominican people.
The next three months will see the continuing collection of data via six boat trips. The team plans to reach out to potential investors in Puerto Plaza as the idea has support from some stakeholders, but will need more to make their research commercially viable for local hotels. The team will also begin preparations for future technical visits to the Makei Corporation in Hawaii and the Bora Bora Intercontinental Hotel to observe the operations of successful SWAC systems.