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Makai Ocean Engineering has received a $3.6 million contract from the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and the Office of Naval Research for the research and design on the marine renewable energy known as ocean thermal energy conversion.
The Waimanalo-based ocean technology and engineering firm noted on Thursday that it will perform this work at its Ocean Energy Research Center in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island, which is the largest OTEC research facility in the world.
“If we can use 1 percent of the energy [generated by OTEC] for electricity and other things, the potential is so big,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Senior Scientist Joseph Huang said in a statement. “It is more than 100 to 1,000 times more than the current consumption of worldwide energy. The potential is huge. There is not any other renewable energy that can compare with OTEC, which is unique among renewables because it can provide large quantities of constant electricity.”
Makai Ocean Engineering will work on two initiatives toward the ultimate goal of making commercial OTEC a reality, including designing, manufacturing and testing and improved heat exchanger for OTEC and connecting power from its OTEC plant to the electric grid on the Big Island.
Because heat exchangers make up about one-third of the cost of an OTEC plant, Makai said it will develop designs for an OTEC heat exchanger that is high-performance, low-cost and corrosion-resistant.
Additionally, Makai will install a 100-kilowatt turbine at the Ocean Energy Research Center to generate OTEC power onto the local grid in mid-2014.