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article imageFirst wave-produced power in U.S. goes online in Hawaii

By Karen Graham     Sep 19, 2016 in Technology
Hawaii has become the first state in the United States to make use of wave-produced electricity, thanks to the up-and-down and side-to-side motion of a large buoy swaying and bobbing in the waters off the coast of Oahu.
At the Marine Corps' Hawaii's Wave Energy Test Site on the north shore of Kaneohe Bay, Oahu is a wave power device called the Azura, the Oregon-based Northwest Energy Innovations’ company's 20kW half-scale prototype.
The prototype is a 45-ton wave energy converter that captures energy from both the heave and surge motions of the waves. The Azura is located in the bay at a depth of about 30 meters (100 feet). It has onboard generators that convert the kinetic motion to electricity, which in turn is transferred to the grid through an undersea cable.
How much more carbon can our oceans take in before all marine life is gone?
How much more carbon can our oceans take in before all marine life is gone?
Northwest Energy Innovations
The tall yellow buoy bobs and sways in the water, generating an electrical current that travels through an undersea cable for a mile to the marine base, where it feeds into Oahu's power grid. Not to get too overly excited, but the Navy says the amount of electricity being fed to Oahu's power grid is a "modest" amount, but on a positive note, it is a start.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and other experts believe there is enough power in the ocean's endless motion to meet a quarter of America's energy needs, dramatically reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. But wave energy technology still lags behind wind and solar power.
This is because there are still a number of technical hurdles to be overcome. This is why the Navy established the test site in Hawaii. It's hoped that eventually wave power technology will be able to produce clean, renewable power for offshore fueling stations for the fleet and provide electricity to coastal communities around the world.
Location of the Azura in Hawaii.
Location of the Azura in Hawaii.
Northwest Energy Innovations
"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."
As a matter of fact, while the navy will continue to operate the half-scale generator for another year, at least, they are already working on designing a new and bigger generator that will operate in bigger waves at 60-80 meter depths (100-150 feet), generating 1.0 megawatts, enough energy to power several hundred homes. Plans are for this generator to come online as early as 2017.
While Hawaii does have some terrifically big waves known to surfers around the world, for people living in our 50th state, they have to contend with the highest electricity prices in the country. This is because of the state's reliance on oil delivered by sea. But Hawaii also has a legislative mandate to get 100 percent of its energy from renewables by 2045, according to ABC News.
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