US Navy Funds Wave Energy Test Site in Hawaii

Work at the Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) located off Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kāneʻohe has received an infusion of $9 million from the U.S. Navy.


The funds, from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), are directed to the Applied Research Laboratory at the University of Hawai‘i (ARL/UH), working with UH Mānoa’s Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI), to support industry testing of wave energy conversion devices. The Kāneʻohe site will be the first wave energy test site in the United States connected to an active power grid.

The ARL/UH has begun building a strong strategic partnership with the Navy in renewable energy research.

Retired Vice Adm. and ARL/UH Executive Director Michael Vitale said, “The Navy has established several aggressive energy goals, one of which is to produce 50 percent of its shore-based energy from renewable sources by 2020. In Hawai‘i, our diverse renewable energy resources, large defense presence, and current grid challenges offer a tremendous opportunity to apply UH’s unique research capabilities and experience to help the Navy solve their energy challenges. Wave energy is but one of a growing list of opportunities for future energy research.”

The wave energy resource is abundant in many parts of the country including Hawai‘i, Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, California, and the Northeast, but there is a large gap between the potential of the waves to substantially contribute to the nation’s energy needs and the reality today. Testing at the Kāne‘ohe WETS is intended to reduce this gap by providing developers a cost effective way to test and validate their designs, with the ultimate goal of reducing cost and improving performance.

HNEI Director Richard Rocheleau said, “HNEI is excited to be working with the Applied Research Laboratory and the Navy in providing this critical support for wave energy testing. We hope that our research efforts and support to wave energy conversion developers will allow for the testing, improvement, and ultimate deployment of wave energy production at Navy bases, in the U.S., and around the world.”

The Navy initiated testing of wave energy devices in Kāneʻohe bay several years ago with a single test berth in about 100 feet of water. Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) tested a device there until 2011. This year the Navy plans to establish two additional test berths at the site, at water depths of about 200 feet and 260 feet. When cabled to shore and connected to the Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s power grid, the site will become the first grid-connected wave energy test site in the United States.

HNEI, with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the State of Hawai‘i, worked with the Navy to support development of an environmental assessment for the Kāneʻohe wave energy test site. Starting in fall 2014, Northwest Energy Innovations, will deploy their Azura™ device at the 100-foot berth. Remaining DOE funds will be used to support the testing, provide wave forecasts, conduct independent performance assessments, support regular inspections of the moorings and devices, and conduct ecological surveys and other environmental monitoring.

The new funds from the Navy will help to expand efforts at the Kāneʻohe test site in key ways. HNEI and its marine services partner Sea Engineering Inc. will conduct additional underwater surveys, work with technology developers to address unscheduled maintenance issues, and configure a site-dedicated support platform with diver and remote operated vehicle facilities to provide a rapid response capability. This will reduce the cost of deployment to the developers and reduce risk.

Upon completion of the two deep-water berths, NAVFAC and DOE will fund additional companies to test their wave energy conversion devices at the Kāneʻohe site. The Office of Naval Research and the State of Hawai‘i are providing additional funding and support for the project.

Press Release, July 22, 2014; Image: