By the late 1920's, scientists had begun considering the ocean as a viable power source. French engineer Georges Claude, inventor of the neon lamp, was also the first person to build prototype ocean thermal energy conversion facilities. Like today's machines, his turbines worked by drawing power from temperature differences between deep and shallow waters. In 1928, he reportedly generated forty kilowatts of electric power from the Meuse River's natural heat. Following his success at that location, Claude proposed building larger stations and commercial plants in tropical waters. The image featured here shows an artist's conception for Claude's giant steam turbine, which would not only supply electricity, but would pipe cold water to surrounding areas. Between 1930 and 1935, Claude constructed two plants in Cuba and Brazil, but both were destroyed by storms before they could be used profitably.
Read the full story in "Sea Water Runs Strange Dynamo"