The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Hawaii Flips Switch on World's Largest Ocean Harvesting Clean Energy Plant
Hawaii is definitely ahead of the curve when it comes to renewable energy. In June, the Aloha state became the first state to mandate that all of its electricity come from renewable sources no later than 2045. Along with other islands, its charging ahead with wind, solar and smart grid systems. But now, the state is home to the first fully closed-cycle Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) plant in the U.S.
OTEC is "a process that can produce electricity by using the temperature difference between deep cold ocean water and warm tropical surface waters," Makai Ocean Engineering, the company that built the plant, explains on its website. "OTEC plants pump large quantities of deep cold seawater and surface seawater to run a power cycle and produce electricity." Makai touts OTEC as a constant, clean energy source that is "capable of providing massive levels of energy."
Watch this short video for an explanation of how it works:
Makai staff explain in the video that the potential for OTEC is immense because the source of the energy is just sunlight.
"About 70 percent of the sunlight coming to Earth lands on the ocean. Most of that is captured in the surface layers of the ocean water in the form of heat," says Duke Hartman, vice president of business development at Makai. "That's beautiful because we can extract that energy 24/7 and use that power any time we want it, totally eliminating the need for an energy storage system."
The 105-kilowatt demonstration plant on the Big Island, which cost about $5 million to build, only generates enough electricity to power 120 homes. But to date, it's the largest such plant in the world. And it's promising enough for the U.S. Navy to be investing in it. The Navy has a target for 50 percent of its shore-based energy to come from alternative sources in five years.
While the industry is still very much in its infancy, Makai believes it won't be long until it takes off.
The company estimates that all of Hawaii's electricity needs could be met by about 12 commercial-scale OTEC plants. They already have plans to construct a 1-megawatt facility in Japan, and Hartman says Brazil, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and West African nations all have potential.
“Anywhere tropical with deep water is ideal, especially if they import their fuel,” says Hartman.
The biggest challenge remains financing, explains Hartman. “We need a visionary investor to get us past the expensive pilot project into the large-scale commercial projects,” he said.
According to the company's website, an offshore commercial-scale OTEC plant could prevent burning roughly 1.3 million barrels of oil each year, produce electricity at roughly $0.20 per kilowatt-hour and prevent more than half a million tons of carbon emissions per year.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A middle-aged married couple in China was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease similar to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the middle ages, as CNN reported.
Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.
Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.
At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.
By Sabrina Kessler
Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.
By Alex Robinson
Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.
The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.
Temperatures plunged rapidly across the U.S. this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday.