Make us your home page
Instagram

America's first wave-produced power goes online in Hawaii

KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii — Off the coast of Hawaii, a tall buoy bobs and sways in the water, using the rise and fall of the waves to generate electricity.

The current travels through an undersea cable for a mile to a military base, where it feeds into Oahu's power grid — the first wave-produced electricity to go online in the United States.

By some estimates, the ocean's endless motion packs enough power to meet a quarter of America's energy needs and dramatically reduce the nation's reliance on oil, gas and coal. But wave energy technology lags wind and solar power with important technical hurdles still to be overcome.

To that end, the Navy has established a test site in Hawaii, with hopes the technology can someday be used to produce clean, renewable power for offshore fueling stations for the fleet and provide electricity to coastal communities in fuel-starved places around the world.

"More power from more places translates to a more agile, more flexible, more capable force," Joseph Bryan, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy, said during an event at the site. "So we're always looking for new ways to power the mission."

Hawaii would seem a natural site for such technology. As any surfer can tell you, it is blessed with powerful waves. The island state also has the nation's highest electricity costs — largely because of its heavy reliance on oil delivered by sea — and has a legislative mandate to get 100 percent of its energy from renewables by 2045.

Still, it could be five to 10 years before wave energy technology can provide an affordable alternative to fossil fuels, experts say.

For one thing, developers are still working to come up with the best design. Some buoys capture the up-and-down motion of the waves, while others exploit the side-to-side movement. Industry experts say a machine that uses all the ocean's movements is most likely to succeed.

"You've got to design something that can stay in the water for a long time, but be able to survive," said Patrick Cross, specialist at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, which helps run the test site.

The United States has set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by one-third from 2005 levels by 2030, and many states are seeking to develop more renewable energy in the coming decades.

Jose Zayas, a director of the Wind and Water Power Technologies Office at the U.S. Energy Department, which helps fund the Hawaii site, said the United States could get 20 to 28 percent of its energy needs from waves without encroaching on sensitive waters such as marine preserves.

"When you think about all of the states that have water along their coasts … there's quite a bit of wave energy potential," he said.

Wave energy technology is at about the same stage as the solar and wind industries were in the 1980s. Both received substantial government investment and tax credits that helped them become energy sources cheap enough to compete with fossil fuels.

But while the U.S. government and military have put about $334 million into marine energy research over the past decade, Britain and the rest of Europe have invested more than $1 billion, according to the Marine Energy Council, a trade group.

The European Marine Energy Centre in Scotland, for example, has 14 grid-connected berths that have housed dozens of wave and tidal energy devices from around the world over the past 13 years, and Wave Hub in England has several such berths. China, too, has been building and testing dozens of units at sea.

Though small in scale, the test project near Kaneohe Bay represents the vanguard of U.S. wave energy development. It consists of two buoys anchored a half-mile to a mile offshore.

One of them, the Azura, which extends 12 feet above the surface and 50 feet below, converts the waves' vertical and horizontal movements into up to 18 kilowatts of electricity, enough for about a dozen homes.

A Norwegian company developed the 50-foot-wide, doughnut-shaped device called the Lifesaver. Cables anchor the 3-foot-tall ring to the ocean floor. When the sea wobbles the buoy, the cables move, turning a generator's wheels. It produces an average of 4 kilowatts.

America's first wave-produced power goes online in Hawaii 09/19/16 [Last modified: Monday, September 19, 2016 9:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Water Hogs: During drought, hundreds of Tampa Bay homes guzzled a gallon of water a minute

    Drought

    When Amalie Oil president Harry Barkett plunked down $6.75-million for his Bayshore Boulevard mansion, he picked up 12.5 bathrooms, a pool, a hot tub, an elevator and a deck bigger than some one-bedroom apartments.

    During one of the worst droughts in the Tampa Bay region's history, hundreds of houses used more than a gallon of water a minute. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times

  2. Gov. Scott's tough talk on Venezuela may not turn into economic action

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — To show his solidarity with Venezuelans, Gov. Rick Scott held a rally in South Florida and repeatedly promised to punish companies that do business with the Nicolás Maduro regime.

    Gov. Rick Scott held a rally July 10 at El Arepazo restaurant to show solidarity with Venezuelans. Scott has said he wants to punish companies that work with the Nicol?s Maduro regime.
  3. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  4. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  5. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]