Wave action By Rep. Cynthia Thielen

OceanStewardship09_lgI was a keynote speaker at the 28th International Conference on Ocean, Offshore, and Arctic Engineering, sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, held in Honolulu. I was placed on the conference program between two fossil-fuel proponents. My speech directly followed one by oil executive Robert Ryan (Chevron vice president for global exploration), who focused on oil, oil discovery and oil as the solution for energy needs. I countered his remarks by emphasizing that oil is not the solution for Hawaii.

Hawaii is 93 percent dependent on imported fossil fuel. Each year we export $7 billion to pay for imported oil. This has been calculated to be $2,100 from each woman, man and child — and that’s excluding aviation fuel. Hawaii residents pay the highest electricity rates in the nation: over 20 cents per kilowatt hour on Oahu, and higher on some neighbor islands. We are totally vulnerable to price fluctuations in this volatile market and to supply disruptions. We learned in the 1970s: With an oil shortage, California gets what it needs; Hawaii is left in the dark. But we failed to act 30 years ago. Fortunately, or wisely, that has changed.

So what are we, as an isolated island state, doing about this energy crisis? The state and the U.S. Department of Energy have entered a partnership to develop Hawaii’s natural sources of energy and reduce our dependence on fossil fuel. Called the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, the goals are to achieve 70 percent clean energy by the year 2030. Forty percent of this will come from renewable energy, the other 30 percent from efficiency. We can’t reach that percentage without wave energy systems being part of the renewable portfolio.

Why should wave energy companies and engineers consider Hawaii? Hawaii’s wave climate is one of the best in the world. EPRI, the utility-funded think tank in Palo Alto, Calif., has estimated wave energy converters can provide 100 percent of our neighbor island’s needs and 80 percent of Oahu’s.

The Hawaiian Islands are effectively volcanic seamounts that rise precipitously from the sea floor. The absence of a continental shelf means that wave energy arrives in island waters undiminished, that waves literally slam into our coastline going full speed. With this constant, reliable wave climate and 24-hour forecasts available from NOAA, wave energy becomes in essence a “firm” power source for utilities.

Another major advantage is that, due to Hawaii’s underwater topography, the open ocean locations suitable for wave energy conversion occur from shore out to 3 miles from the coastline. This cuts down on the length of cable needed to transmit power to stations on shore, which in turn decreases project costs significantly.

After Congress passed the “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007,” I saw that the act contained grant funding for National Marine Renewable Test Centers and encouraged the University of Hawaii to apply. The School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology took the lead and was awarded a grant and designated as one of only two National Marine Renewable Test Centers, with a $1.2 million per year federal grant and a five-year designation, enabling it to study and implement wave energy systems in Hawaii’s seas.

At the Legislature, I co-sponsored two key renewable energy bills: House Bill 1271 places the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative’s provisions into law, and funds an energy program administrator plus seven planning and renewable energy positions; it mandates we achieve 70 percent clean energy by 2030.

House Bill 1464, among other things, directs the state energy resources coordinator to identify geographic areas containing renewable energy resources, which include areas suitable for wave, and to designate these areas as renewable energy zones.

Our island state provides the perfect environment in which to develop the wave energy systems that will become the industry standards in this emerging sector of renewable energy. We have federal financial support and involvement; we have support from the Legislature and administration; and we have cooperation from the major utility, Hawaiian Electric Co.

There’s been a groundswell of support for wave energy in the past year — it’s high time Hawaii rides that wave.

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For Hawai’i, wave energy’s a natural – Honolulu Advertiser 6-14-09

wave%20energy

Think Tech by Jay Fidell

Hawai’i’s wave energy champion, Rep. Cynthia Thielen, is not going to the wave energy conference in Maine this summer. Instead, she’s going to a bigger one in Sweden. These conferences are proliferating.

Some say wave energy will overtake biodiesel, wind and solar because it is the best concentrator of solar energy, unlimited in supply and environmentally benign. Others, including Roger Davis at SOEST, question sustainability, and the Obama administration recently cut R&D funding. So what will wave energy be in the race against oil — dark horse or dead end?

WAY BEHIND EUROPE

Wave energy devices are actively harvesting off Ireland, Scotland, Denmark and Portugal. Israeli companies are selling wave technology in China. Meanwhile, the U.S. is taking baby steps on the New England shelf.

Europe has worked out the mapping and permitting and generously supports wave energy. Congress and the New England states are mapping wave energy zones, but so far there are no commercial uses in this country.

Hawai’i has set energy goals without funding wave energy, even though it is a clear contender. DLNR already leases ocean areas, and under new legislation DBEDT’s energy coordinator Josh Strickler will soon start mapping our zones.

Good fit for isles

Wave energy devices could be deployed around our islands in environmentally acceptable ways and places. We need to find technologies that are best for Hawaiian waters, which are different than waters off the Mainland and Europe: Northeasterly trades blow year round, creating rough seas augmented by winter swells. Our islands are volcanic seamounts with no continental shelf. Waves arrive undiminished, and wave energy devices can be deployed within our three-mile limit, reducing the cost of the cable to shore.

Some options

According to Richard Seymour at Scripps, wave energy tends to bring out inventors, and they are out in droves. Here are some devices being developed:

In Power Buoy converters, the water drives a turbine inside the buoy. They are being tested in Oregon. PGE has contracted for a cluster off Eureka, the first in the U.S. This will scale up to 100 megawatts for 75,000 homes.

Wave Dragons are platforms that catch waves in shallow reservoirs on deck. When water flows back out it drives a turbine. These operate in Denmark.

Snakes, called Pelamis (sea snake) attenuators, are long multisection cylinders whose undulations drive turbines. These operate in Portugal.

The blowhole, an oscillating water column, is anchored where waves pound the shoreline in a narrow tidal range. It runs the water out through a turbine and blowhole. They operate in Scotland. How about East O’ahu?

Don’t forget vortex hydro energy. Vortices occur when water flows past submerged objects. The University of Michigan has developed a device that harvests currents below 2 knots, useful in Hawai’i’s slower currents.

MAINTENANCE issues

Wave energy devices have maintenance issues, including corrosion and damage from big waves and storms, and the risk of damage and liability when they get loose or need to be brought back for repair or replacement.

Materials science and nanotech can provide obvious benefits. If Oceanit can design a super strong surfboard, why can’t we also invent new materials for wave energy devices?

Son-of-221 bill

The Department of Energy designated the University of Hawai’i as one of two Marine Renewable Test Centers, and wave energy at SOEST and HNEI will be funded for five years. That’s great. Maybe we can also get some of that elusive stimulus money.

Hawai’i needs to understand that capital can go anywhere. To encourage startups and incentivize investors, we need a son-of-221 bill in the 2010 session. Development requires funding.

an energy jackpot

Australia’s Oceanlinx is building a $20 million 2.7 MW wave energy cluster off Maui’s Pauwela Point. It hopes to supply Maui Electric Co. by December. Sydney Chow is testing devices off Coconut Island. The Marines are testing devices in Kane’ohe Bay. Navatek recently patented a wave energy converter.

Given the lack of R&D funding, there is no broad agreement about the future of wave energy, but with our easy access to the ocean and the efficiency of the new technologies, we can make wave energy a major part of our portfolio.

It’s much too early to limit ourselves to biodiesel, wind and solar. We must keep our confidence high, our options open, our entrepreneurs funded and our engineers interested. If we play it right, we can harvest wave energy for Hawai’i and export technology to the world. This dark horse can be an energy jackpot.

Representative Cynthia Thielen’s Keynote Address to International OMAE Conference

Cynthia 3X1Aloha to all of you, and particularly to my friends from overseas:  Professors Antonio Falcao, Teresa Pontes, Cameron Johnstone, and George Smith.

 I represent the coastal communities of Kailua, Mokapu and Kaneohe Bay in the Hawaii Legislature.  I’m an outspoken advocate for wave energy systems in our island waters.

 Those of you who are engineers know the trick is to find the best solution to each problem.  In Hawaii, it’s not oil; just as in Colorado, it’s not waves.

 As we sit here, with the sun shining and breezes blowing, it’s hard to imagine that Hawaii is 93% dependent on imported fossil fuel for our energy needs.  Each year we export 7 billion dollars to pay for imported oil.  This has been calculated to be $2,100 from each woman, man and child (and that’s excluding aviation fuel).  This means that Hawaii residents pay the highest electricity rates in the nation (over 20 cents per kilowatt hour on Oahu, and higher on some neighbor islands).  We are totally vulnerable to price fluctuations in this volatile market and to supply disruptions.  We learned in the 1970’s:  with an oil shortage, California gets what it needs; Hawaii is left in the dark.  But we failed to act 30 years ago.  Fortunately, or wisely that has changed.

 So what are we, as an isolated island state, doing about this energy crisis?  The State of Hawaii and the U.S. Department of Energy have entered a partnership to develop Hawaii’s natural sources of energy and reduce our dependence on fossil fuel.  Called the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), the goals are to achieve 70% clean energy by the year 2030.  Forty percent of this will come from renewable energy; the other 30% from efficiency. Hawaii, with help and funding from U.S. Department of Energy is becoming the renewable energy laboratory for the nation. This is where wave energy converters will play a major role.  We can’t reach that percentage without wave energy systems being part of the renewable portfolio.  This is an opportunity and a challenge for those of you in the audience who are in the technical community, in industry and academics.

 Why should you consider Hawaii?  Hawaii’s wave climate is the second best in the world, with the first being at Tierra del Fuego.  EPRI, the utility-funded Think Tank in Palo Alto, California has estimated Wave Energy Converters (or WEC’s) can provide 100% of our neighbor island’s needs and 80% of Oahu’s. 

 I’ll explain  a bit about our wave climate.  The northeasterly trade winds blow year-round, creating rough seas.  The average sea state in summer is 6-8 feet within 10 second periods.  Powerful winter swells created by “Aleutian Lows” (Arctic Storms) augment the available wave energy resource off Northern and Eastern shorelines. 

 The Hawaiian Islands are effectively volcanic seamounts that rise precipitously from the sea floor.  The absence of a continental shelf means that wave energy arrives in island waters undiminished—unlike other locations such as North and South America and Europe.  This is the same reason why surfers talk about how “powerful” Hawaiian surf is.  In contrast, waves traveling through open ocean waters slow when they hit a continental shelf.  The lack of a continental shelf in Hawaii means that waves literally slam into our coastline going full speed.  With this constant, reliable wave climate and 24-hour forecasts available from NOAA, wave energy becomes in essence a “firm” power source for utilities.

 Another major advantage is that, due to Hawaii’s underwater topography, the open ocean locations suitable for wave energy conversion occur from shore out to three miles from the coastline.  This cuts down on the length of cable needed to transmit power to stations on shore, which in turn decreases project costs significantly.  This is a major advantage that Hawaii has over mainland United States’ locations.

 And for those of you who have been caught up in the federal bureaucracy:  Operating within the State’s 3 mile jurisdiction means WEC developers avoid the bureaucratic battle at the federal level between two federal entities, MMS and FERC. 

 And still a further advantage for a Hawaii location is that Hawaii has a deep-water harbor, which combined with the presence of Pearl Harbor and the Pacific Fleet, means that there are a wide variety of marine services available.

 And what about our University of Hawaii?  After the United States Congress passed the “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007”, I saw that the Act contained grant funding for National Marine Renewable Test Centers.  I met with Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw and some of her deans to encourage UH to apply for the grant.  The School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) took the lead and was awarded the grant and designated as one of only two National Marine Renewable Test Centers, with $1.2 million per year Federal grant and a five-year designation.  The grant enables SOEST to study and implement wave energy systems in Hawaii’s seas.

 At the Legislature, I co-sponsored two key renewable energy bills:  House Bill 1271, places the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative’s provisions into law.  The bill also creates and funds the position of energy program administrator plus seven planning and renewable energy positions.  The HCEI no longer is a voluntary document.  HB 1271 mandates we achieve 70% clean energy by 2030.

 House Bill 1464, among other things, directs the State Energy Resources Coordinator to identify geographic areas containing renewable energy resources, which, of course, include areas suitable for wave, and to designate these areas as renewable energy zones.  HB 1464 importantly authorizes the Energy Resources Coordinator to deem that a permit is approved, when the county or state permitting authority has been given adequate time, but has failed to act on the permit application.

 The idea of Wave Renewable Energy Zones has gained international and local support for Hawaii:

Matthew Seed, CEO of Wavegen, a division of Voith Siemens, has testified:  “We request that [wave energy] zones are selected and designated so that they are suitable for all types of WEC’s, including the implementation of breakwater, nearshore and shoreline wave energy converters.

 Derek Roberson, President of Wavebob, an Irish technology, testified:  Wavebob and utility Vattenfall have a joint venture to develop a 250MW commercial wave farm off the west coast of Ireland.  Wavebob has established operations in the US and will have advanced demonstration projects, which would be ideally suited to Oahu’s wave resource.

 ReVision evaluates technical and economic viability of WEC companies for international governments and utilities.  ReVision testified:  “Results of studies show Hawaii is uniquely positioned to become a leader in this technology.  This, in turn, will create local jobs in science, engineering, construction, operation and maintenance.”

 Dr. Sidney Chao and Peter Janda, VP of CIIIS testified:  “Wave energy industry is on the verge of crossing the tipping point where power from WEC’s may easily surpass that from photovoltaic and wind.”

 Also, Professor George Smith, who is a presenter at OMAE, and is Joint Head of Peninsula Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy, University of Exeter, UK, stated”  “Marine renewable energy is now coming to have real potential as a contributor to the generation of ‘clean’ energy and the reduction of carbon emissions from conventional energy production.”  Professor Smith sees the “need for sea scale trials and developments as critical.”

As Hawaii moves to become the renewable energy capitol of the nation, I encourage you to look at Hawaii as a wave energy laboratory.  Oceanlinx is in the process of installing two commercial Wave Energy Converters off Pauwela Point, on Maui’s windward side.  The Oceanlinx project will total 2.7MW of capacity.  Wavegen recently met with State Department of Transportation officials about shore and harbor-based systems.

  Our island state provides the perfect environment in which to develop the Wave Energy Systems that will become the industry standards in this emerging sector of the world’s renewable energy portfolio.  We have federal financial support and involvement through the HCEI and federally designated and financially supported University of Hawaii Marine Renewable Test Center; we have support from the Legislature and Administration; and we have cooperation from the major utility, Hawaiian Electric Company,

 Some of you might have seen yesterday’s headline:  Wave power budget faces cut.”  The Obama administration is proposing a reduction from $40 million to $30 million for wave and tidal research funding.  The $30 million is still 10 times greater than the funds provided by the Bush administration.  Democrat Senator Patty Murray, from the State of Washington, is actively challenging that reduction, as will leaders in Hawaii.  The article further notes:  “Some experts have estimated that if only 0.2 percent of energy in ocean waves could be harnessed, the power produced would be enough to supply the entire world.”  To those of you in industry, there is your challenge.

 I’ll finish with a comment about someone who knows the power of Hawaii’s waves from firsthand experience:  On his recent trip home, President Obama bodysurfed at Sandy Beach on the Ka Iwi coastline.  The shorebreak at “Sandys” is notorious for its hollow, powerful waves, which come out of deep water and break right upon the shore.  The waters just a couple of miles East of Ka Iwi are ideal for wave energy conversion.  I invite you to develop and deploy your technology here, so on his next trip to his birth-state, President Obama can see your Wave Energy Converter in operation, providing clean, renewable power to the electric grid.

 Mahalo and aloha.