Navy’s Hawaii Ocean Energy Plans Taking Shape

The U.S. Navy’s wide-ranging quest for renewable energy has taken an eminently logical turn in Hawaii, where the service is looking to the water for power.

Plans for a wave-energy test center are moving into high gear after Navy officials met with a diverse group of ocean energy developers last month. As part of a two-day conference at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, attendees visited the Kaneohe Bay site, where research into wave power began in the early 2000s, and where Ocean Power Technologies in 2009 hooked a wave energy buoy into the grid. That was the first ever grid connection of a wave energy device in the United States.

hawaii wave power

image via Ocean Power Technologies

A 2003 environmental assessment by the Navy [PDF] found that wave power projects there would have no significant impacts. The Navy hopes to add more buoys and supply the Marine base with wave power by 2014.

At the conference, some 40 developers presented cutting-edge technology to the Navy in hopes of becoming one of three soon-to-be-selected private companies to begin testing their devices and harnessing the ocean’s energy at Kaneohe Bay, with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. Navy engineers and private sector scientists discussed wave energy technology initiatives and implementation, offshore wind power, ocean thermal energy conversion, sea water air conditioning and ocean compressed air energy storage.

“The Navy is committed to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Pete Lynch, vice commander captain of Naval Facilities Engineering Command (Pacific Division), adding that “the ocean is an untapped resource and possible source of renewable energy.” After reviewing proposals from several private energy companies, the selection process begins. Designs of new moorings and power cables are anticipated by the end of the year. Navy engineers are already meeting with local residents and stakeholders about an environmental assessment on the Kaneohe Bay site.

Based in New York City, Leah Jones is a freelance writer with undergraduate degrees in criminal justice and forensic science. She has worked on research in the toxicology field for several years, and she brings her passion for science into the realm of green technology with EarthTechling. Leah has studied English at the graduate level and has authored or co-authored over 30 publications in scientific journals. When she's not writing, Leah enjoys playing music with her husband and teaching music to New York City kids.