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
By James O'Hare
There are 20 million people in the world facing famine in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen. In developed nations, too, people go hungry. Venezuela, for instance, is enduring food insecurity on a national level as a result of economic crisis and political corruption. In the U.S., the land of supposed excess, 12.7 percent of households were food insecure in 2015, meaning they didn't know where their next meal would come from.
Artists are taking the climate crisis into frame and the results are emotional, beautiful and stirring.
So you've seen the best climate change cartoons and shared them with your friends. You've showed your family the infographics on climate change and health, infographics on how the grid works and infographics about clean, renewable energy. You've even forwarded these official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration graphs that explain the 10 clear indicators of climate change to your colleagues at the office.
As the Trump administration moves full speed ahead on boosting the oil and fossil fuel industry, opposition to increased pipeline construction is cropping up in different communities around the country.
By Simon Evans
Last Saturday, two dead whales washed up on the coast of Suffolk, in eastern England, and a third was spotted floating at sea.
What happened next illustrates how news can spread and evolve into misinformation, when reported by journalists rushing to publish before confirming basic facts or sourcing their own quotes.
By Monica Amarelo and Paul Pestano
Sun safety is a crucial part of any outdoor activity for kids, and sunscreen can help protect children's skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. Kids often get sunburned when they're outside unprotected for longer than expected. Parents need to plan ahead and keep sun protection handy in their cars or bags.
By Joe McCarthy
A lot of people take part in community clean-up efforts—spending a Saturday morning picking up litter in a park, mowing an overgrown field or painting a fence.
A coalition of conservation groups and others announced Thursday that a historic number of comments and petitions of support have been submitted to the U.S. Department of the Interior in support of Bears Ears National Monument. Despite the entirely inadequate 15-day comment period ending on May 26, more than 685,000 comments in support of Bears Ears National Monument have been collected.