The World’s Largest Makai’s Ocean Thermal Plant connects to U.S. Grid

As published by Makai Ocean Engineering, it has completed the world’s largest operational Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) power plant with a dedication ceremony held on Friday, August 21, 2015 at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA).  

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Image credit: Makai Ocean Engineering

What is OTEC?  

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is a marine renewable energy technology that harnesses the solar energy absorbed by the oceans to generate electric power. The sun’s heat warms the surface water a lot more than the deep ocean water, which creates the ocean’s naturally available temperature gradient, or thermal energy.  

The oceans cover more than 70% of Earth’s surface and capture a large part of the sun’s heat in the upper layers, making them the world’s largest solar collectors and energy storage system. Utilizing just a small portion of this energy can cover the global energy need.   

The distinctive feature of OTEC is the potential to provide baseload electricity, which means day and night (24/7) and year-round. This is a big advantage for instance tropical islands that typically has a small electricity network, not capable of handling a lot of intermittent power.   

About Makai’s OTEC power plant   

Makai’s OTEC power plant uses the temperature difference between the ocean’s cold deep water and warm surface water to generate clean, renewable electricity that is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The NELHA-sited plant will generate 100 kilowatts of sustainable, continuous electricity—enough to power 120 Hawaii homes annually.


Image credit: Makai Ocean Engineering  

The breakthrough marks the first true closed-cycle OTEC plant to be connected to a U.S. electrical grid and represents a major achievement for Hawaii, the United States, and marine renewable energy.   

“Today marks the launch of the world’s largest operational ocean thermal power plant,” said Hawaii Governor David Ige. “This plant provides a much-needed test bed to commercialize ocean thermal energy conversion technology and bolster innovation, and it serves as a stepping stone to larger plants that will provide meaningful amounts of stable, clean power to Hawaii and other locations in the Asia Pacific such as Okinawa in the near future.” 

Video credit: Makai Ocean Engineering  

The research and development at the plant were funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) through the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI), and the infrastructure was funded by Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC). Accrued electricity revenues from this power plant will sustain further research and development of OTEC technology.

A potential next phase for OTEC development at NELHA is being considered by an international consortium under the recently signed Okinawa-Hawaii clean energy agreement.   

About Makai Ocean Engineering, Inc.   

Makai Ocean Engineering, Inc. is an innovative ocean engineering and design firm based in Hawaii, the USA since 1973. Makai’s expertise includes submarine cable software and services, marine pipelines, Seawater Air Conditioning (SWAC), Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), autonomous underwater vehicles, marine corrosion, and general marine engineering and R&D. (Source: Makai Ocean Engineering)


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