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OTEC plant plugs in to Hawaii island grid

Makai Ocean Engineering Inc. officially flipped the switch of its Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion power plant on Hawaii island during a dedication ceremony on Friday. 

The OTEC power plant uses the temperature difference between the near-freezing deep water of the ocean and the surface waters heated by the sun to generate electricity. 

The power plant at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority is a renewable energy facility that provides power 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The facility will generate 100 kilowatts of electricity, which is enough to power 120 Hawaii homes every year. It mostly will be used for research. 

The test facility will help Hawaii get closer to using the renewable energy on a larger scale, Gov. David Ige said in a press release. 

“Today marks the launch of the world’s largest operational ocean thermal power plant,” Ige said. “This plant provides a much-needed test bed to commercialize ocean thermal energy conversion technology and bolster innovation, and it serves as a stepping stone to larger plants that will provide meaningful amounts of stable, clean power to Hawaii and other locations in Asia Pacific such as Okinawa in the near future.” 

The current plant is onshore but larger plants would be located offshore. 

Makai is in discussion with NELHA to sell excess power produced by the plant at approximately 19 cents per kilowatt-hour, similar to the state Public Utilities Commission’s “feed in tariff” rate. 

The research and development at the plant was funded by the Office of Naval Research through the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, and the infrastructure was funded by Naval Facilities Engineering Command. 

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