Hawaii Makes Waves While Wind Power Stalls

If this week is any indication, wave energy may have more of a future for the islands of Hawaii than wind power. New Jersey-based Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) announced that it recently received additional funding of US $2.8 million for its ongoing contract from the US Navy to build a wave power station off the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

This comes on the heels of a permit denial for construction of a $70 million wind farm proposed by the Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO). According to the American Wind Energy Association, the mayor of the city of Kahe, Mr. Mufi Hannemann, a self-proclaimed supporter of renewable energy, voted against the project because he didn’t feel the proposed site within his town’s borders was appropriate. Public sentiment played a leading role in the mayor’s decision, including assertions that the project would desecrate a sacred Hawaiian site. OPT’s project, on the other hand, is looking positive after receiving the additional Navy funds. The plan calls for a 1 MW wave power station at the Marine Corps Base in Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay that will involve the deployment of a series of OPT’s 150 kW PowerBuoys. OPT’s wave energy converter consists of a vertically oriented column that absorbs the rising and falling motion of ocean waves to cause the buoy mechanics to move freely up and down. This movement in turn drives an electric generator that creates AC power. The AC power is then converted to high voltage DC, which can be cabled to the mainland for use. The company expects a typical 1 MW project such as this to cost (US) 7-10?/kWh. In all, the project should create enough power to provide the equivalent power typically consumed by as many as 1000 residential homes. OPT is reading the latest funding round as clear sign of ongoing support for their project. “We are very pleased that the Navy continues to share with OPT a strong commitment to the success of the Hawaii program,” said George W. Taylor, Chief Executive Officer of OPT. “In addition to funding, the Navy provides its expertise in the areas of marine construction and systems operation in the dynamic ocean environment. We are confident that this partnership will establish the foundation for OPT to provide its wave power stations to serve the grids of Hawaii and other environmentally conscious markets.”

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