The wave energy resource in the Pacific Ocean surrounding Hawaii is abundant enough to, in theory, supply most of the state’s electricity. In addition, the Hawaiian Islands are situated perfectly for Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). Tidal and ocean current resources, however, are less promising.
The State of Hawaii is proposing that an aggressive 40% of its electricity come from renewable resources by the year 2030, a significant increase over the currently legislated 20% by 2020 Renewable Portfolio Standard. Ocean energy is anticipated to play a role in achieving that goal. Recognizing that obtaining permits for renewable energy projects is a major barrier to their implementation, the state has hired a renewable energy facilitator to coordinate permits for large-scale projects. The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism has also been assigned the responsibility for designing a streamlined permitting process.
A number of ocean energy developers are pursuing RD&D projects in Hawaii. In 2008, a 2.7-MW project by Oceanlinx off the northern coast of Maui was announced. Later that year, OPT deployed its third PowerBuoy in Kaneohe Bay, an effort supported by the US Navy. A demonstration of CIIIS/SG2’s wind-wave buoy was also completed in Kaneohe Bay. Other wave energy companies have expressed interest in pursuing projects in Hawaii.
The University of Hawaii’s Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) has received one of two US Department of Energy awards establishing a National Marine Renewable Energy Center. HNEI anticipates implementing projects to test components, devices, and interconnection systems for wave energy at three sites on the islands of Oahu and Maui, and to pursue OTEC R&D at the existing Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) facility on the island of Hawaii.
A 2008 agreement between Lockheed Martin Corporation and the Taiwan Industrial Technology Research Institute will support the development of a 10 megawatt pilot OTEC plant in Hawaii.