Makai Ocean Engineering has connected the world’s largest operational ocean thermal energy conversion power plant to the US grid from at its facility on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The facility, dedicated Friday, produced electricity from the ocean using the temperature difference between deep, cold and warm water surface seawater.
“This plant provides a much-needed test bed to commercialize ocean thermal energy conversion technology and bolster innovation," said Hawaii's governor, David Ige, in a written statement.
The governor went on to predict that Friday's milestone will pave the way for larger plants serving a much wider geographical area.
It is the first such project ever connected to the grid in the US. Now that it is operational, it will generate 100 KW of electricity, enough to power 120 Hawaiian homes.
Funding for the plant was provided through the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.
Recently, higher electricity costs, increased concerns for global warming, and a political commitment to energy security have made initial ocean thermal energy conversion commercialization economically attractive in tropical island communities where a high percentage of electricity production is oil based. Even within the US, this island market is very large; globally it is many times larger.
As OTEC technology matures, it should become economically attractive in the southeast US, the company said.