ANDREA GIL, the Maui Weekly, May 1, 2008
North Shore devices could be among the first commercial wave power plants in the world.
The announcement in February that Oceanlinx, an Australian company that plans to deploy some of its wave energy devices off Pa’uwela Point along Maui’s northern coast, rocketed the Valley Isle into the exciting, international, wave energy community. If the Oceanlinx devices are installed as planned, perhaps in 2009, they could be among the first commercial wave power plants in the world.
What is wave energy, and how can it be tapped to provide renewable electricity to Maui and other communities? What’s involved in the Oceanlinx project? What will it look like, and what impacts can be expected? What other companies are involved in wave power?
These questions, and others, will be addressed in upcoming article, but let’s start with some background on Oceanlinx. This innovative company used to be called Energetech, and its representatives first visited Hawai’i in 2006 to discuss the potential for their technology here. Their device works on the “oscillating water column” principle (to be explained in a future article), one of many concepts for tapping the energy in ocean waves. Oceanlinx’s design has the potential of either producing purified water through reverse osmosis or generating electricity, depending on the equipment installed.
In plants intended to generate electricity, Oceanlinx would install an innovative turbine designed by one of the company’s founders, Dr. Tom Denniss. This patented Denniss-Auld turbine was named by the International Academy of Sciences as one of the world’s ten most outstanding technologies for 2006.
Oceanlinx has demonstrated its technology in the harbor at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, Australia. They made some design improvements to their first-generation machine, and have tested a smaller-scale version of the second-generation device. The Maui machines will be among the first of the full-scale second-generation Oceanlinx machines to be installed anywhere in the world.
Oceanlinx does have agreements in the works to install its machines at other locations, including in the U.S., Europe and Africa. Maui’s machines—there might be two or three of them—will be fabricated in Southeast Asia and transported to Hawaiian waters. They will be able to be remotely operated, though local expertise for troubleshooting and maintenance is likely to be needed.