Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) uses the natural thermal gradient in the sea. It has been investigated to make it competitive with conventional power plants, as it has huge potential and can produce energy steadily throughout the year. This has been done mostly by focusing on improving cycle performances or central elements of OTEC, such as heat exchangers. It is difficult to choose a suitable heat exchanger for OTEC with the separate evaluations of the heat transfer coefficient and pressure drop that are usually found in the literature. Accordingly, this paper presents a method to evaluate heat exchangers for OTEC. On the basis of finite-time thermodynamics, the maximum net power output for different heat exchangers using both heat transfer performance and pressure drop was assessed and compared. This method was successfully applied to three heat exchangers. The most suitable heat exchanger was found to lead to a maximum net power output 158% higher than the output of the least suitable heat exchanger. For a difference of 3.7% in the net power output, a difference of 22% in the Reynolds numbers was found. Therefore, those numbers also play a significant role in the choice of heat exchangers as they affect the pumping power required for seawater flowing. A sensitivity analysis showed that seawater temperature does not affect the choice of heat exchangers, even though the net power output was found to decrease by up to 10% with every temperature difference drop of 1 °C.
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