Hawaii in prime position to attract companies in wave energy production By Rep. Cynthia Thielen

Sunday , September 18, 2011

Southampton, England » At the opening of the recent five-day European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference, I presented a proclamation from Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz encouraging wave energy developers “to strongly consider Hawaii as an ideal market to present your products to the world.”

I also informed the nearly 500 attendees from 29 nations that Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay was leading our state with its plans to construct a wave hub, where local and international wave energy converters (WECs) could be “plugged in” and tested in Hawaii’s waters. This readies Hawaii to benefit from a global surge in wave energy production.

Indeed, Mike Reed, of the U.S. Department of Energy, Water Power Program, told conventioneers that the program’s mission is to develop innovative technology capable of generating cost-effective and clean renewable energy. Between $39 million and $50 million in federal dollars is allocated for fiscal year 2012, with an ultimate goal of bringing 23-38 gigawatts yearly on line. Noting that technologies are rapidly developing, Reed made it clear the U.S. would be active in this new market space.

A bit of history, courtesy of Stephen Salter, of the School of Engineering and Electronics at the University of Edinburgh: “In the autumn of 1973 the western economies were given the rare chance of a ride in a time machine and saw what the world would be like when there was no longer cheap oil.

“Most people thought it looked rather uncomfortable. … Others, who had previously been regarded as eccentric, increased their efforts to develop what were then called alternative, and now are called renewable, energy sources. Still others set out to destroy what they saw to be a threat.”

And they succeeded.

Fast forward to 2011, and this time renewable energy must succeed, and wave energy will play a major role. There are nearly 10 WEC companies close to full commercial stage. Utilities are engaged with some of these, meaning they will go online, including Wave Dragon and Wavestar in Denmark, OE Ocean Energy in Ireland, Aquamarine-Oyster in Scotland, and Oceanlinx in Australia.

Scotland has declared it will obtain 100 percent electricity from renewables by 2020. At 31 percent now, wave energy is playing a major role in achieving this objective.

The CORES project (Components for Ocean Renewable Energy Systems), led by Tony Lewis, of University College Cork in Ireland, has been a collaborative effort by 13 partners in seven countries. Sea-test results have been very encouraging and CORES demonstrates how international collaboration can bring wave energy online.

Until Marine Corps Base Hawaii stepped forward, Hawaii’s policies have been primarily limited to wind and solar, thereby ignoring the vast and powerful non-polluting natural energy source surrounding our islands. This fuel — the waves — is free, unlike imported fossil fuel the utilities use to power our islands.

With the leadership of MCBH, Hawaii will soon tap into its wave resources, ultimately reducing the cost of power and our addiction to oil.

Fontaine: Day an experience that ‘changed my life’

Awakened from his slumber by an early-morning phone call, current South Maui Rep. George Fontaine, a former Maui police captain, thought he was “dreaming” when he saw the attack on the World Trade Center on television.

“I got this early-morning phone call from my assistant chief, my boss, I think it was 4 o’clock in the morning,” said the Wailea resident who at the time was commander of the Wailuku Patrol District.

His boss told him to turn on the television and said: “We’re at war.”

Fontaine saw the replay of the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center.

“I just sat there in horror as the second plane came in. I was just in complete shock . . . that anyone would be capable of doing that,” said the now 50-year-old.

Fontaine remembered asking himself: “How could this have happened?”

He and his boss stayed on the telephone for five to 10 minutes while watching the events unfold.

“I thought I was dreaming,” he said.

After Fontaine hung up, he called his father in Los Angeles. Fontaine heard a rumor that a plane also was headed for that city.

“He was like surprisingly calm about everything,” Fontaine said of his father, now deceased.

Then the captain headed into work for a busy day that is hard for him to recall in detail 10 years later.

But he said police did check the county’s infrastructure and listened to any details provided by the FBI. Police commanders met to discuss the situation and any other potential dangers.

“We (police) are always able to provide good public service, 9/11 was no different,” he said.

He said a lesson he takes away from the tragedy, and one he hopes that others also take away, is to “always be vigilant.”

With his law enforcement background, Fontaine said he also is focused on public safety while at his current job as a state House representative.

The terrorist attacks on U.S. soil showed that there is a potential for violence to occur anywhere, he added.

“It was an experience that changed my life,” he said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.  See story at http://mauinews.com/page/content.detail/id/553350/Fontaine–Day-an–experience-that–changed-my-life-.html