Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) converts the thermal energy stored in the ocean temperature difference between warm surface seawater and cold deep seawater into electricity. The necessary temperature difference to drive OTEC heat engines is only 15–25 K, which will theoretically be of low thermal efficiency. Research has been conducted to propose unique systems that can increase the thermal efficiency. This thermal efficiency is generally applied for the system performance metric, and researchers have focused on using the higher available temperature difference of heat engines to improve this efficiency without considering the finite flow rate and sensible heat of seawater. In this study, our model shows a new concept of thermodynamics for OTEC. The first step is to define the transferable thermal energy in the OTEC as the equilibrium state and the dead state instead of the atmospheric condition. Second, the model shows the available maximum work, the new concept of exergy, by minimizing the entropy generation while considering external heat loss. The maximum thermal energy and exergy allow the normalization of the first and second laws of thermal efficiencies. These evaluation methods can be applied to optimized OTEC systems and their effectiveness is confirmed.
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