The notion of a blue revolution can be traced back to John Craven and his floating city concept. For the 1976 bicentennial, John had Kiyonori Kikutake, that same architect of Aquapolis fame, design a floating city, a mile wide water lilyish looking structure expected to cost $200 million. We know now how difficult it is to find that kind of money, so Craven located $80,000 and convinced 130 volunteers to build a scale model weighing all of 150 tons. But, oops, she sank, and still sits, rusting, in Kaneohe Bay. Disaster? Yes. Embarrassing? Yes. But, at least he did something. Ask me what I ever built in the ocean.
John Pina Craven has a PhD in Mechanics and Hydraulics, plus a law degree. At a very young age he found himself chief scientist of the U.S. Navy’s Special Projects Office, which, among its duties, ran the Polaris (nuclear arming of submarines) Program, as detailed in his book on The Silent War. He serves as a hero in Blind Man’s Bluff, a book by Sherry Sontag, Christopher Drew and Annette Lawrence Drew. Governor John Burns recruited John to Hawaii in the early seventies as dean of marine programs. One problem was that he had no real faculty, nor much space to operate. A second was that those with marine authority automatically looked upon his presence as a threat. However, he did found the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii and served as head of the Law of the Seas Institute. John now is chief scientist for the Common Heritage Corporation, is involved with cold water agriculture and freshwater from the sea, plus he golfs with me on occasion. I was there when he scored under 100 for the very first time. That was in the 1990s. I even arranged for a ceremony with plaque honoring this achievement. It is possible that he attained double digits only that one time in his life, but he keeps telling me that his game is improving.
At least 25 major ocean conferences, workshops and significant gatherings have occurred in Hawaii beginning in the eighties and into this new millennium. Yes, people like to visit Hawaii, but if there is to be international cooperation to do anything monumental in the open ocean, you might as well be headquartered in the middle of the Pacific. Much of this was reported in the section on the History of the Blue Revolution, so let us skip to December of 1998 when Hawaii hosted the International Ocean Alliance Summit. Through an appropriation of $50,000 from the Hawaii State Legislature, 100 delegates from throughout the world met to craft a plan to build a floating platform powered by OTEC. I had already decided to soon retire, so I prevailed on Stephen Masutani, an individual a decade earlier who I hired to work for PICHTR on OTEC, and now a researcher with HNEI, to lead the future of the Blue Revolution by chairing the gathering.
Roughly one-third of the participants, in fact, were students and teachers from the public schools. Early on in my directorship I went out of my way to involve the Hawaii Department of Education, many times securing legislative funding, to have students and teachers interact on an equal basis with the conferees. The future of this, and other, sustainable technologies, depends on the next generation, and it is never too early to begin the training process. No one expressed any negativity towards having all those students around, and I think this is an important part of the process, but, to be honest, I wonder how much so, as in another major international ocean gathering, an elaborate process was established to select a student and teacher from every high school, so about a hundred joined the thousand conferees. Before the first session of the conference I convened these school representatives and noted that, in the morning paper, Hawaii pupils were rated dead last in the nation in standardized tests. I challenged them to show the world that they were better than that, and, sometime in the future, especially if they entered the marine field, to send me a note bringing me up to date on what they were doing. It has been fifteen years and no one has responded.
This sort of reminds me of a convocation speech I gave to about 150 engineering graduates several years ago on making a difference. I gave them three faculty names, people who could help them with ideas and contacts, and asked them to let me know later in life how they made a difference. First, not one student talked to any of the professors, plus, again, no reply. I must wonder if I have any inspirational skills at all, but, then, this all reminds me of my experience in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) from Book 2: there seems to be no sign of intelligent life out there.
But back to the 1998 conference, recommended was the development of a multi-use floating base, a retrofitted oil platform that would have as its center a commercial, oil-based power plant with a minimum size of 150 MW. Associated would be an international research component to allow for a small OTEC plant to provide upwelled fluids for next generation fisheries and marine biomass R&D, hydrogen and biofuels production, tourism opportunities and defense and environmental research. The capital cost would be a quarter billion dollars, “only” half the cost of the ocean platform of 1992 mentioned above. Well, first, the local utility, behind the scenes, complained that this was not on their planning timetable, then, potential funders got scared away by the large investment sum with minimal profit potential. Maybe most importantly, a local architect, Dennis Toyomura, the sparkplug who got the legislated funds for the University of Hawaii, passed away. People do make a difference, and I would bet that Dennis would have been able to bulldog a floating platform by now.
In 1998 Stephen Masutani and I wrote an article, published in the Journal of the Marine Technology Society, on the details of the previous paragraph. Yes, about all we do is write papers. About a year later, in the November 1999 Sea Technology issue, there was an editorial entitled, “The Blue Revolution…Again.” Editor David Graham reported that in 1992 Senator Inouye hinted of an exciting future where war riches could be leveraged for civilian applications in an American Blue Revolution. However, the Peace Dividend never materialized, as the Gulf War occurred and the military-industrial complex kept making and selling instruments of war. However, the Clinton Administration had just published Turning to the Sea: America’s Ocean Future, that mirrored the Blue Revolution. Graham went further to say that Japan had Mega-Float, awaiting the first landing of an airplane in the Year 2000, and, thus, the revolution had already started there. Well, he was wrong.
In reality, very little developed, as $100 million projects just scare off potential financial supporters. Faced with this wall of reality, I selected one element of the Blue Revolution, Next Generation Fisheries, and gambled that this wedge could catalyze the full program, as all fisheries were in some jeopardy and fish prices were climbing in a time when nutritional trends indicated a shift from red meat to seafood.
A university is not the ideal place to develop a major international effort, for there is no way that the academic budget process could justify spending millions on an economic development need. Universities are of course, part of the team, as extolled by administrators and the governor, but mostly by educating students and, now and then, producing a faculty member who had some research success transferable to the marketplace. At one time patents were discouraged in academia, but over the past decade or so, there has been virtually a 180 degree (meaning bad to good) shift in attitude. That is one plus, but the reality is that universities are impotent on comprehensive international partnerships with an annual expenditure of $5 million or more focused on a societal need. This is why the Pacific International Center for High Technology was created.
It so turned out that the concept had appealed to the PICHTR administration some years prior, for in April of 1997, an informal meeting was called to discuss interest in this concept during the “Open Ocean Aquaculture” conference held on Maui. In August of 1997, PICHTR then convened a workshop of key researchers, mostly from Hawaii and Japan in a planning meeting on “Next Generation Fisheries,” spearheaded by James Szyper of the University of Hawaii at Hilo. The group envisioned a coordinated international, multidisciplinary task force enhancing biological productivity through artificial upwelling of nutrient-rich subsurface seawater into the photic zone to produce seafood, energy and other products by the integrated management of a grazing, floating platform powered by OTEC. To gauge international interest, in December of 1998, we then hosted “The International Ocean Alliance Floating Platform Summit,” funded by the Hawaii State Legislature, as reported earlier.
In August of 1999, the chairman of the PICHTR board, Fujio Matsuda, served as primary author of a pioneering paper on “The Ultimate Ocean Ranch,” published in Sea Technology, which I also co-authored with James Szyper and Joseph Vadus of NSF/NOAA. Later that year the team, adding Toshitsugu Sakou of Tokai University and Masayuki Mac Takahashi of Tokyo University, presented a report to the United States – Japan Natural Resources Marine Facilities Panel entitled, “U.S.-Japan Advances in the Development of Open-Ocean Ranching.” A couple of years later Mac Takahashi of our group published a paper called, “Ocean Fertilization Using Deep Ocean Water,” and wrote a book on the subject.
A potentially significant gathering I chaired occurred in October 7, 2004, when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo, was the setting for a PICHTR hosted Next Generation Fisheries Summit, also attended by Norway. One of the invaluable organizers for this meeting was Mitsuro Donowaki, who in the 80’s had served as the Japanese Counsel General in Honolulu, later on became Japan’s ambassador to Nigeria and Mexico, and who now serves on the PICHTR Board. His Gaimusho (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) colleague, Koichiro Matsuura in the 2000’s became director-general of UNESCO, the host for my Blue Revolution talk in Paris.
There was universal agreement that the three countries should work together and a follow-up meeting was planned for Norway. Stephen Masutani of the U.S., Lars Golmen of Norway and Kazuyuki Ouchi of Japan were tasked to write a paper on this session and present a report to an upcoming ocean conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Golmen and Masutani then in November of 2005 co-chaired NGF Summit #2 in Bergen. Chile was added to the partnership. The conferees agreed to The Bergen Declaration, in effect, pledging to work together on NGF and agreeing to next meet in Hawaii in 2008.
Finally, in June of 2006, signs of life from other quarters suddenly appeared at the Hawaii Aquaculture Conference. First, Michael Rubino, NOAA’s Manager of Aquaculture Program, as the kick-off speaker, waxed euphorically on the benefits of marine aquaculture. He, furthermore, indicated that he was taking signals from the Secretary of the Department of Commerce (NOAA reports to Commerce), Carlos Gutierrez, who supported the expansion of activities in this area. This was the very first time that any combination of government officials spoke in public for next generation fisheries. The keynote speaker, John Forster of the State of Washington, and a long-time salmon company entrepreneur, then essentially reported on the Blue Revolution. This was my first encounter with him, and I was both flabbergasted and enthralled. Both Rubino and Forster agreed to interact closely with the PICHTR NGF group. The fact that Hawaii Senator Dan Inouye subsequently became chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which had authorization authority over the Department of Commerce, one would think, will become useful.
Finally, in 2007, three separate 100 MW OTEC projects were floated for Honolulu. The first group was Sea Solar Power International (SSPI), headed by Bob Nicholson and represented in Hawaii by Mel Chiogioji, a former USDOE official, who originally came from Hawaii, attained an admiral’s rank in the Navy Reserve and went on to form a successful consulting company. SSPI was originally founded by Hilbert Anderson, as earlier mentioned, and every decade or so, Bob returns with the promise of financial support. This time the Abell and Weinberg Foundations out of Baltimore were to provide funds, guaranteed by AON Risk Insurance Company, for the first 100 MW demonstration / commercial OTEC plant. The Weinberg Foundation, actually, was created by Harry Weinberg, a Hawaii businessman. Negotiations are supposedly being carried out with the Hawaiian Electric Company and Honolulu Board of Water Supply. On September 13, 2006, HECO had a full page ad in The Honolulu Advertiser entitled, “Working together, let’s capture the ocean’s power in our energy mix.” I have hopes that Bob will make it this time.
The leading OTEC office since the early days of research out of the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR) has morphed into Luis Vega, one of their engineers. Dr. Vega was one of my very first hires when I first co-founded PICHTR in the early 1980’s. His 100 MW facility, on a floating platform stationed about 6 miles offshore, would also provide at least 32 million gallon / day of desalinated water. The installed cost would be $790 million using state-of-the-art components. I should have warned him about projects with a price tag of nearly a billion dollars. The annual cost for operations and maintenance was estimated at $16 million. For a 15 year loan at 8% annual interest and 3% average annual inflation, electricity could be produced for 0.14 $/kWh. He would then seek a power purchase agreement from the utility of 0.17 $/kWh. At $2 per thousand gallons sale price of the potable water, the annual revenue would be at least $23 million. This revenue is equivalent to a reduction of 0.03 $/kWh in the cost of electricity production, providing an overall effective cost of 0.11/kWh. The average price of electricity in Hawaii is approaching $0.20/kWh (up to $0.30/kWh in 2008), so maybe the time has come. Luis has been in communication with Drs. C.B. Panchal of Argonne National Laboratory and D. Bharathan of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to utilize their compact brazed aluminum heat exchanger. All he needs is funding.
Joining the fray was Lockheed Martin, which in 1979, under the leadership of James Wenzel, built and tested Mini-OTEC, the very first OTEC power plant to produce net-positive electricity. The Lockheed team, now commanded by Ted Johnson out of D.C., has also proposed a 100 MW system. The significance of their entry is that a major aerospace firm has designs to become a player in the development of this technology. It is easy to predict that the future of OTEC will depend on Lockheed Martin.
Thus, while nothing much has happened regarding the total Blue Revolution, elements of the concept are beginning to gain lives of their own. It is now only a matter of time when these parts agglomerate into a system, for the cost-effectiveness of each can be enhanced by association with the whole.