Governor Lingle made the announcement from Taiwan, where she is meeting with officials to promote tourism and business partnerships as part of her ongoing 11 day trip to Asia.
During the Governor's official state visit to Taiwan, she came to an agreement with the Taiwan Industrial Technology Research Institute and the Lockheed Martin Corporation to build the initial pilot plant in Hawaii.
OTEC systems work by converting solar radiation to electric power. As long as the temperature between the warm surface water and the cold deep water differs by about 36°F, an OTEC system can produce a significant amount of power, turning the oceans a vast renewable resource, with the potential to produce billions of watts of electric power.
Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle, second from right, with officials from the Taiwan Industrial Technology Research Institute and the Lockheed Martin Corporation in Taipei, Taiwan. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)
"As island economies in the Pacific, Taiwan and the State of Hawaii share very similar challenges of overdependence on imported petroleum for their energy needs," Governor Lingle said. "Taiwan and Hawaii also share a common vision and plan to increase renewable and clean energy generation based on indigenous energy resources."
The current economics of energy production have delayed the financing of a permanent, continuously operating ocean thermal energy conversion plant. But OTEC technology is viewed as promising for tropical island communities that rely heavily on imported fuel.
Hawaii currently relies on imported fossil fuel for about 94 percent of its primary energy - the balance is from renewable resources such as wind, solar and geothermal power.
Ocean thermal energy conversion plants could provide islanders with much-needed power, as well as desalinated water.
Taiwan is even more dependent on imported fuels than Hawaii, with less than one percent of its primary supply derived from indigenous renewable sources.
The Bureau of Energy of Taiwan is working to increase conservation and energy efficiency, and to develop renewable energy so that it accounts for 12 percent of Taiwan's total installed capacity by 2020.
The ocean temperatures and the subsea terrain make the waters surrounding both Taiwan and Hawaii superior locations for this technology.
This latest agreement with Taiwan complements the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, a partnership between the State of Hawaii and the U.S. Department of Energy which will move the state away from its dependence on fossil fuels and toward a clean energy economy that is intended to be a model for other states and regions.
Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corporation has developed and studied ocean thermal energy conversion technology for over 30 years. Its plans for a 10 megawatt OTEC pilot plant in Hawaii are already underway.
Most OTEC research and development in recent decades has been performed at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, or NELHA, located at Keahole Point, Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. It has become the world's foremost laboratory and test facility for OTEC technologies.
Huge pipelines bringing cold, deep ocean water to the surface have enabled the demonstration of a variety of ocean thermal energy conversion components and pilot plants.
The first closed-cycle, at-sea OTEC plant to generate net electricity, was deployed in the waters off the NELHA lab in 1979. It was dubbed Mini-OTEC.
Lockheed Missiles and Space Company was a partner in that effort as well as subsequent research at NELHA.
In May 1993, an open-cycle OTEC plant at NELHA, produced 50,000 watts of electricity during a net power-producing experiment. This broke the record of 40,000 watts set by a Japanese system in 1982.
Today, scientists are developing new, cost-effective, state-of-the-art turbines for open-cycle OTEC systems, yet currently there is no facility in Hawaii producing electricity using OTEC technology.
In January 2008, Governor Lingle announced the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, an unprecedented partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy that aims to have at least 70 percent of Hawaii's power come from clean energy within one generation – by 2030.
Lingle says that as Hawaii is the world's most isolated archipelago and is also the most oil-dependent state in America, a clean energy future for Hawaii isn't simply a desire – it's a necessity.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.