US Navy donates $ 6 million to UH for pioneering wave energy research

The Fred Olsen Lifesaver (WEC) Wave Energy Converter was deployed to the Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) off Kaneohe in 2018 and 2019. Photo credit: Pat Cross

The US Naval Facilities Engineering Command and Expeditionary Warfare Center contributed $ 6 million to the Hawai’i Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa to continue critical research and logistical support to the only grid-connected wave energy test site in the country.

The US Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site (WETS), off Marine Corps Base Hawaii, provides a unique testing ground for pre-commercial wave energy converters (WECs) for demonstrate their performance in an operational setting and advance their level of technological readiness.

Marine energy has immense potential to provide persistent energy for ocean observation and monitoring, desalination, aquaculture, mineral recovery at sea, and electrification of isolated or island communities.

“We are excited about the Navy’s latest investment in our work to advance wave energy through our support to WETS, especially as it allows us to expand our research into new areas of relevance to offshore applications, such as recharging autonomous vehicles for ocean observation purposes, ”said Pat Cross, marine energy research specialist at the Hawai’i Natural Energy Institute and principal investigator of the support program WETS.

These funds, intended for The UH applied research laboratory, in collaboration with the institute, will enable the university to support a number of WEC deployments planned during the period 2021 to 2024 in the form of environmental monitoring, power and survivability performance assessment; and additional logistical support to the Navy and WEC development companies.


In addition to core support to WETS, the new funds will support an expansion of UH research related to offshore applications and not connected to the wave energy grid.


The institute will examine the potential of the existing WETS infrastructure to support the creation of a test and demonstration node at sea, including underwater energy storage as well as communication and power interfaces that would allow smaller-scale WECs to recharge autonomous underwater vehicles and various environmental sensing systems. . The team will also design a docking and charging station for autonomous underwater vehicles for use at WETS.

The new funding is also helping UH researchers advance a number of research projects such as a power generation and management system for a floating oscillating water column WEC, designed for applications such as as ocean observation, navigation and equipment charging. A new breakwater system will also be developed with an integrated WEC that will generate energy from wave energy while protecting coastal regions. Additionally, the team will develop a small-scale WEC that can be quickly deployed for power generation and seawater desalination near shore.

Hawaii’s progress in transitioning to renewable energy for electric power is well served by the development of wave power, given the availability of this resource in the state and its potential to increase and supplement other forms of variable renewable energy, particularly wind and solar. Wave energy is relatively constant throughout the day and night and can be forecast with precise accuracy a week or more in advance, improving the ability of grid managers to plan its contribution to the power mix. global production on the network.


Additionally, Hawaii’s wave resources are ideal for testing, especially on the windward side of O’ahu where WETS is located. Year-round trade winds, reinforced by winter storms and long-lasting northern swells, provide a unique environment in which to test both long-term energy productivity and the aircraft’s survivability.

The new funding will leverage this ideal test bed to enable companies to continue their progress towards grid-connected wave energy at a competitive price, while expanding research into non-grid wave energy applications. , which may be both more achievable in the short term and useful in advancing concepts relevant to grid-connected wave energy.

“These are exciting times for the EXWC Marine Energy Development Program,” said Nate Sinclair, WETS Program Manager, Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center. “In addition to continuing to provide in situ test infrastructure and support for wave energy to land, we are now making substantial investments to continue technological development that will lead to delivering power to remote locations. for Navy applications such as persistent surveillance and AUV recharging. . “

UH will partner with research colleagues at the University of Washington and Oregon State University to advance many concepts under these new funds.

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