First Tidal Power Plant Goes Online In Hawaii

Andrew Follett | Energy and Science Reporter

America’s first wave-produced tidal power plant became operational in Hawaii Monday.

The tidal generator converts the ocean’s vertical and horizontal waves into up to 18 kilowatts of electricity, which is enough electricity to power about a dozen homes. It stands 12 feet above the water’s surface and extends 50 feet below. The company which developed it has plans for a version which can generate at least 500 kilowatts of electricity, or enough to power a few hundred homes.

Currently, the generator sends electricity to a nearby military base through an undersea cable and then sends it into Oahu’s power grid.

Tidal power is a new technology and has several major problems similar to regular green energy including that it is extremely location specific, expensive, unreliable and requires large scale energy storage systems which don’t exist. I

“The ocean is a really hard place to work,” Patrick Cross, a specialist at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute who helps run the test site, said in a press statement. “You’ve got to design something that can stay in the water for a long time but be able to survive.”

Additionally, tidal power needs to operate in the ocean for long periods of time, which is a major technical challenge as the mechanisms need to withstand storms, the constant pounding of the seas and the corrosive effects of saltwater.

The new Hawaiian tidal power station is 9th of its kind in the world.

Hawaii is a natural site to test the technology as it has powerful waves and the highest electricity prices in the nation.

Due to its unique location and weather, Hawaii gets a higher percentage of its electricity from solar power than any other U.S. state, getting 3.66 percent of its energy from solar. However, Hawaii’s government has not favored solar power much relative to other states, only passing 29 policies supporting it, far fewer than the national average of 51 policies. Out of the 50 US states, only Hawaii, California, Arizona and Florida got more than 1 percent of energy from solar power. Each one of these states has noticeably favorable weather environments for solar power

Solar power produced 0.6 percent of all energy used in America last year while wind produced 4.7 percent, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Meanwhile, coal power and natural gas produced 33 percent, and nuclear power produced 20 percent of all U.S. electricity the same year.

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