Thursday, April 22, 2010

A New Hawaiian Island? Could Be, If OASIIS System Comes Our Way

"Megawatt Island" would capture solar energy, store it below.
Earth Day is as good a day to announce new approaches to generating electricity and reducing fossil fuel dependence as any other – maybe even better. GreenFix Energy chose today to distribute a press release on OASIIS, which stands for Oceanic Atmospheric Solar Insulated Incapsulation System.

You have to admit, OASIIS does seem to involve outside-the-box thinking. The basic technology is ocean thermal energy conversion or OTEC, about which we’ve been writing for more than two years. But OASIIS is a new twist on an old idea – incapsulation (sic) of ocean water in a chamber beneath a floating platform that’s 1 to 3 square kilometers in size! The water with its captured solar energy remains in the capsule rather than being dissipated by ocean currents. A video explains the process and the potential for villages, marinas and shopping on these power islands.

There’s nothing in the release to suggest anything more than an intriguing idea at this point – no patent, no financing, no firm plans. In this respect, GreenFix seems to be in the same boat as Deepwater Structures, Inc., which similarly publicized its untested but provocative technology idea a couple months ago.

We’ll be watching both companies to see where they go with their approaches to OTEC. As a cheerleader for the technology, we’re standing behind them – and other peoples’ money – 100 percent and wish them well.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Piece by Piece, Lockheed’s OTEC Plant for Hawaii Taking Shape

We choose to remain optimistic about ocean thermal energy conversion as “The Big Breakthrough Technology’ here at Hawaii Energy Options, no matter what the skeptics say. Doing so lets our mind’s eye see the first OTEC plant coming together, and the latest piece is from Owens Corning.

The company is showing off its modern composite technology that it says will be used to construct the large cold-water pipe for Lockheed Martin’s planned pilot OTEC plant, presumably intended for positioning off Oahu’s leeward coast.

The Owens product is called XStrand, a high-strength glass fiber that everyone involved will be able to withstand the subsurface conditions and pressures on the pipe, which is perhaps the biggest technology challenge in the OTEC system. Lockheed’s OTEC program manager Dennis Cooper shares our optimism.

“OTEC could enable Hawaii achieve energy independence within a generation,” says Cooper. “Our independent research and development work to date has shown OTEC to be technically feasible. The next step is to demonstrate it on a commercial scale.”

Such a demonstration would seem to leap-frog the pilot plant phase, but if that’s what Mr. Cooper wants, we say go for it – just as we’ve been saying since this blog’s initial post two years ago.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Don’t Bother Preaching to Depts. of Navy, Ag; They’re In the Choir

What came out of the two days of biofuel discussions at Marine Corps Base Hawaii this week was either mana from heaven or too good to be true, depending on your outlook. In short, the U.S. Navy Department and U.S. Department of Agriculture are partners in an effort to encourage creation of a biofuels industry in Hawaii that could be a win for everyone involved – Hawaii agriculture interests and the Navy included.

The big “need” mentioned repeatedly in the two-day forum is a substitute for jet fuel. To say the military burns a lot of it woefully understates the issue. According to Joelle Simonpietri of Pacific Command, 70 percent of the Department of Defense’s energy use in the Pacific is jet fuel, nearly all of which is derived from petroleum that comes from foreign sources.

Jackalyne Pfgannenstiel, assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment, said national security depends on energy security, so finding biofuel alternatives to jet fuel is a major priority.

The Navy’s goals in its new approach to energy security are five-fold: reform the acquisition process; reduce petroleum use; “Sail the Great Green Fleet,” which translates to greening up the fleet’s fuel supply; increase renewable energy use ashore (to 50 percent by 2020), and increase renewable energy use Navy-wide.

Much was made in the media coverage of the potential for HC&S of Maui to become a major biofuel player, inasmuch it already has a century of expertise in growing cane.

Even as the biofuel forum was underway on Tuesday, solar technology was highlighted at a bidders gathering on a massive photovoltaic RFP at the Marine base. The week was an eventful one for renewable energy advocates in Hawaii and offered more than a little encouragement for good progress in the decade ahead.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Biofuel Conference at MCBH Kicks Off Major DoD Interest in Hawaii

Thanks be to those of you who’ve continued to visit this site for the past couple weeks while our attention was fully, completely and unequivocally diverted elsewhere. We even let the 2nd anniversary of our first post on this website pass without mention, which is probably a good indicator of how hectic life has been recently.

But we’re back, and there’s quite a bit to be enthused about, starting with front-page news this morning about the industry forum to be held at Marine Corps Base Hawaii next week sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Navy. The nation’s most dependent state on imported energy will “play key role in biofuel use,” according to the print edition's headline. (The Air Force photo shows an A-10C Thunderbolt II on a recent test flight using a 50/50 blend of biofuel.)

Registration was to have been completed more than a week ago, but we’ve taken a shot at attending and hope to be among the observers and participants next week.

Hawaiian Electric’s RFP

We suspect it’s no coincidence that Hawaiian Electric Company has just issued a request for proposals to provide locally grown biofuels for a new plant built at Campbell Industrial Park on Oahu, as well as its other generation plants that could be modified to burn biofuels.

We sat in on a meeting with a senior HECO official recently and heard about the potential for biofuel to be mixed with oil in firing the company’s Kahe power plant on the leeward coast. Tests will be conducted to determine whether and how much power output might be degraded with a biofuel mixture burned in a converted generation unit.

The Kahe plant is Oahu’s largest electricity generation site and therefore, we’ve always thought, the largest hurdle to overcome in making significant cuts in the amount of oil imported for that use. Converting the plant to burn a large percentage of biofuel would be a major advancement in getting off oil.

There’s sure to be a fair amount of buzz at next week’s forum about this prospect.