Forget land-based electricity sources like geothermal, wind and solar—the Electric Power Research Institute says Hawai`i could easily produce all its power from waves.
Its new study, “Mapping and Assessment of the United States Ocean Wave Energy Resource,” the agency says Hawai’i has the potential to produce 130 theoretical terawatt-hours of power annually from wave energy. And 80 terawatt-hours annually of actually recoverable power.
The report was prepared for EPRI by the Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
There remain significant issues for wave energy, including that there’s no robust wave energy collection technology that yet has a long history of actual energy production. There are, however, many companies with some really interesting technological approaches.
This 2009 report from the Hawai`i Clean Energy Initiative doesn’t even list wave power as a renewable energy source.
One of the issues for Hawai`i is that the system that’s going to work may not be one that requires waves come reliably from a single direction. Says the report: “The Hawaii region experiences a greater vaiety of orientations and prevailing wave directions than the US mainland West Coast...”
And there’s the whole issue of whether wave energy in a particular location, even though it is “technically recoverable,” is actually something in a place you’d want to have a wave generation unit.
And there’s the question of how quickly wave energy can become a part of our energy mix. If you go to this U.S. Energy Information Service Administration website, you find an estimate that Hawaii was expected to have 2.7 megawatts of wave energy production in place by the end of last year. Hopeful forecasts are rampant in the energy field, and this appears to have been another.
Still, there’s a lot of theoretical potential in wave energy. Total installed capacity of all the utilities in Hawai`i today is between 2 and 3,000 megawatts. If all of that were producing at 100 percent all the time, it would produce on the order of 20 terawatt-hours—a fraction of the 80 terawatt capacity EPRI says is possible from waves alone.
© Jan TenBruggencate 2012