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by Kuulei Funn, staff writer

 

The WET project began in September 2003, in partnership with Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) of New Jersey developed a mechanism called the PowerBuoy. Approximately 45 feet long in 15 feet in diameter, the PowerBuoy is designed to rest in place about 5-10 feet below the ocean surface, under 16-and-a-half fathoms (100 feet) of water. Held by 100 tons of dead weight, the power generator sits about 3,900 feet from the MCBH runway. The anchors do not threaten or damage the sea bed or any sea life.

As the PowerBuoy bobs in the waves, the up-and- down motion turns a piston that pushes a fluid in a hydraulic motor that generates electricity. The buoy is linked to a power grid onshore by 4,000 feet of cable placed clear of wave break to protect it from damage by incoming waves. Although the cables are transporting electricity, the system is designed to prevent electromagnetic emissions into the environment: therefore marine life and people in the surrounding area will not be affected by electrical currents.

Hawai‘i is an ideal place for ocean technology. On average, our waves produce some of the highest recorded wave power in the world. The electricity generated by the buoys is currently reducing the Navy’s dependence on fossil fuels. The Hawai‘i State Legislature is supportive of the Navy’s use of renewable energy sources. Ideally, OPT would like to see Hawai‘i develop a 100 mega-watt system that would generate electricity at 3-4 cents per kilowatt hour. Hawaiian Electric Company is helping to monitor the project providing technical support to the Navy.

Wave power provides a renewable, nonpolluting energy with little visual impact. The buoys are also low maintenance. With oil prices in flux, wave power is just one of the ways that Hawai‘i can begin to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

 

 

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