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How AI Helps Experts Use Ocean Heat as a Renewable Energy Source

AI is connecting people and ideas at a pace and scale never seen before.

Zero-emission technologies could prevent the next global energy crisis, and the pivot towards Ocean Energy is an exciting opportunity explored at our COP26 workshop.

Pivoting towards Ocean Energy with AI

The fossil-fueled power crisis demands change in our approach to energy. And, as climate action grows more urgent, the business environment for energy companies looks increasingly challenging. Many are exploring new future-proof business models, and as they have been successful in applying engineering expertise to offshore wind, the same urgency and collaboration needs to be repeated with Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion.

One of the newest ways to generate renewable power is a callback to one of the world’s oldest — finding ways to capture the energy from all of the planet’s water. The International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that there’s hypothetically as much as 20,000 to 80,000 Terawatt hours of potential electricity generation in the silent seas waiting to be tapped from established technologies like offshore wind and newer tech including ocean thermal energy converters.

In order to drive this change, experts and SparkBeyond’s Research Studio team are collaborating to accelerate innovation and create a new collective intelligence-based model.

What is Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion?

The oceans have huge sources of renewable energy in the temperature differential between deep cold water and warm surface water.


Why the ocean?

Every corner of the world will feel the effects of global warming, but they will be most drastic for small island nations — particularly low-lying ones that could be swallowed whole by rising seas. On the frontline of bearing climate change’s catastrophic consequences, small island developing states (SIDS) around the world face collapse from both sea level rise and from their dependency on fossil fuels.


Why now?

The built-up climate action momentum paired with the success of emerging AI technologies paves the way for innovation acceleration. Much of climate talk has remained just ‘words’ due to the high complexity of the climate ecosystem, the need for various expertise, and the constant flux of required data. This is even before the change makers can generate ideas that would later need to be taken to market with financing, among others. 

The first step is to understand the challenge and the R&D landscape, identify the whitespaces and pivots in which intervention would bring about systemic change, and look for new ideas in that space. SparkBeyond’s Research Studio bridges these gaps: identifying new technologies and assessing old techniques by deeply analyzing patents and scientific research. By tapping into billions of open- and closed-source data points, the Research Studio synthesizes worldwide knowledge, reveals the whitespaces and required pivots, and radically speeds up the innovation cycle from decades to months.

Using Research Studio

By adopting a whole-of-system approach, experts and change makers use Research Studio for a contextualized overview, to define the system that needs to change, and to drill down on specific domains, adjacencies and opportunities.



In this diagram, experts define the system that needs to change.


The team used SparkBeyond’s AI Research Studio to explore the world's collective knowledge and leverage useful evidence to drive innovation. The open-ended research helps discover indirect connections across different domains. Experts can surface novel and hidden connections to validate or refute hypotheses, with built-in evidence-markers and visualized scoring.


Using evidence to validate or refute your ideas.


What's more, the pace of AI research allows analysts to explore many adjacent domains concurrently, connecting the dots to discover new and novel insights.


Importantly using AI, the analysts can reveal the connections and relationships in the complex system that needs to change. In this example we are exploring the links between Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion and climate change.



The breakthrough with this kind of AI is that it is a ‘Glass-Box Research Method’.  All of the evidence that it is basing its findings on is fully visible. The subject-matter experts and decision makers can make the important judgments about usefulness and viability in the context of the innovation at hand. 

The decarbonization challenge is huge and multi-faceted. While ‘silver bullet’ or simple fixes will always be tempting, only a diversity of renewable sources will provide the ultimate solution. While our recent presentation at COP26 explored the opportunity of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, Research Studio can be applied across the range of climate action tools, turning science fiction into science fact.  


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Follow us to stay updated on the research, join Pivot Projects to collaborate, and learn how AI is assisting the climate ecosystem in a myriad of ways. 

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