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Sunday, June 25, 2017

THE FUTURE OF OTEC AND THE BLUE REVOLUTION

Day Two of the 8th Ocean Energy and Economic Development Symposium and Workshop was held at the King Kamehameha Hotel where I'm staying.  I found the sessions to be stimulating and educational.  The day began with a personalized presentation by Henk Rogers, Dutch-born gaming tycoon and one of the richest men in Hawaii.  I am acquainted with his daughter Julie and son Mike.  He and billionaire Pierre Omidyar (French born Iranian who founded eBay) are two of the most responsible citizens in the state.

Henk told us his life story of how he, after he got wealthy, almost died of a blood clot, which almost totally changed his life and attitudes.  He founded Blue Planet Foundation and is about as opposite from Donald Trump as anyone can be.

Professor Yasu Ikegami of Saga University then reviewed the past seven gatherings of this group.  His powerpoint was so complete that I abandoned my prepared talk and, maybe for the first time in my life operated on an extemporaneous mode (I added these visuals below to this posting to dress up my statements, plus "adjusted" some details).  
  • As I had previously seen Professor Ikegami's presentation, I had pretty much previously decided to only give a concise history of OTEC from my perspective, my role in setting the stage for these gatherings, ending with a speculation of the future, and why it was important for the participants to maintain their enthusiasm.
  • I mentioned it was the French that started this all more than a century ago and that I was working for U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga in 1979 when Lockheed succeeded with Mini-OTEC off the coast of the Keahole Point, where the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) is located.  
  • Matsunaga was responsible for securing the use of that Navy barge, so he asked me to produce an OTEC R&D bill, which became law within the year.  One of the bullets in the legislation was an expectation of 10,000 MW of OTEC by 1999.  It is nearly twenty years past that date and the total amount of OTEC electricity capacity today is 205 kW, about evenly split between Kumejima and NELHA.  That is 0.205 MW.  Yes, that's me to the extreme right.
  • Another bill I originally drafted in the three-year period I spent in the U.S. Senate was the Matsunaga Hydrogen Act.  This is another technology that shows long term promise, but remains in dreamland, no matter what those auto companies seem to suggest.
  • However, I indicated to the audience that I was not a total failure, for I joined other staffers in Congress to pass the first wind energy bill.  Of course, the Congressmen and Senators were recorded as responsible for all that, but we had to do all the work.  Almost forty years later, wind energy is now cheaper to generate electricity compared to new coal or nuclear power plants, and one-third the cost of rooftop solar photovoltaics, although utility scale PV farms are becoming very competitive.  (You can better see the details by clicking on it.)
  • When I returned to the University of Hawaii in 1982, the new dean of the College of Engineering, Paul Yuen, and I, with a lot of help from Senators Matsunaga and Dan Inouye, and Congressman Dan Akaka, plus Governor George Ariyoshi and University President Fujio Matsuda, created the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR).
  • Read the story here, but, essentially, in 1983 Senator Matsunaga convinced President Ronald Reagan to ask Japan Prime Minister Yasu Nakasone for both countries to work together to develop OTEC, with PICHTR to coordinate the research.  An agreement was reached, and Japan supplied about a third of the $25 million (equivalent to $58 million today) fund to build a 255 kW open cycle OTEC facility at NELHA.
  • In 1984 I went to Lockheed in California to meet with Lloyd Trimble, Berkeley with Luis Vega and Gerard Nihous, Colorado with Andy Trenka and Japan with Steve Masutani (who is from Hawaii) to join PICHTR for this endeavor.  All came, and it took until 1992 to design and build this reactor, which operated until 1998.  Using open cycle was significant, for freshwater is a natural by-product, and there is no secondary fluid like ammonia or freon.  This should minimize the backlash that will come from environmentalist and other activists when the first floating platform to house this technology is announced.
  • In 1991 Hawaii State Senator Richard Matsuura and I presented the first paper on the Blue Revolution. a concept that returns as the key to the future. (That was from The Huffington Post, but this blog site also had a posting on the subject.)  I found this quote in the archives (Matt is the son of Senator Spark Matsunaga):
"The state has lost a visionary statesman," said Senate Judiciary Committee Co-Chairman Matt Matsunaga (D, Palolo) this morning. "He was a role model for kids and a champion for good government. His family has lost a loving father and husband. And I have lost a friend, mentor and hero."

  • Also around this time I helped form Green Enertopia, an international alliance to select symbolic islands for energy self-sufficiency.  Miyakojima from Japan, Cheju of South Korea, Cypress of the European Union and the Big Island of Hawaii were among the finalists.  Later, Kumejima appeared specifically for OTEC.  I thus travelled to Okinawa on several occasions in the 1990's into the early 2000's, and helped set the stage for the Hawaii State Department of Business and Economic Development to coordinate a clean energy program with Okinawa.  The original acronym was ALOHA, with O for Okinawa and H for Hawaii.  The efforts of Seiji Naya, Maurice Kaya and Mark Glick ultimately resulted in these Kumejima/NELHA meetings.  Interestingly enough, Mark left DBEDT (they later added tourism) and is now my next door neighbor in the Pacific Ocean Science and Technology Building at Manoa.  I jokingly mentioned that I'm the only academician in the world who probably still has a campus office more than 17 years after retirement.
  • But the future was the focus of my talk and I pontificated on the Blue Revolution, where proposed is a project to build the Pacific International Ocean Station (PIOS), a creation of Blue Revolution Hawaii, which Guy Toyama and I formed just around the time these Kumejima/Big Island sessions began.  Sad that Guy and Richard Matsuura passed away early.  Further, Guy and Paul Yuen died within three days of each other in 2012.
  • Why is the Blue Revolution so important to the participants of this symposium?  Well, OTEC is the heart of the system, providing energy and deep ocean water, which can lead to marine biomass plantations, biofuels, the ultimate ocean ranch, hydrogen and a cornucopia other natural products.  But, more so, there is the potential for environmental enhancement:  remediating global warming and preventing the formation of hurricanes.
  • As an aside, I speculated on whether this next generation fishery could feature whale sharks to replace cattle.  If you have qualms about this possibility, click on that link and remember that cows and bulls are warm-blooded.  
  • The main reason why this particular fish, which is a shark, not a whale, is that it feeds at a low trophic level, so as the available upwelled nutrients can only produce so much biomass, you can produce at least a hundred times more whale shark than yellow-fin tuna.  Morbid, yes, but this 40-foot female of the specie, which can live up to 150 years, produces several hundred babies, which will grow to more than 100 pounds in a year, and this would be the marketable item.  Remember that a cow only gives birth to mostly one calf.
  • But back to the main point, we have determined that PIOS would cost $1.5 billion, and did not expect any government or company to provide sufficient funds.  The only option left, therefore, was a billionaire or two seeking a legacy.  The ocean, not space, is the next economic development frontier.  The International Space Station (ISS) cost $150 billion, will not provide any kind of commercial return, and will crash to Earth in 2025.  PIOS is a mere 1% of ISS, and could pave the way towards abundant sustainable resources for Humanity and relief for Planet Earth.
  • Thus, I re-emphasized that the Blue Revolution, first, needs OTEC to be perfected, a prime role of these conferees, and second, success at finding that enlightened donor or more.
At this point in the morning, it was only around 9:30, and, though I took photos of all the speakers, I'll skip to the end because enough is enough.  However, click on THIS to view the entire two day program.

Not only did we have presentations, there were four discussion groups (leader):
  • OTEC Technology (Duke Hartman, Makai Ocean Engineering)
  • Education and International Cooperation (Yoichi Shimizu, University of the Ryukyus)
  • Deep Sea Water Industry (Jan War, NELHA)
  • Environmental Considerations (Keith Olson, HOST Park)
I chaired the final panel where the above individuals presented their findings.  Robert Baughman (Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology), and Yasuyuki Ikegami (Saga University) added their views as part of the panel.  We were supposed to enter into a discussion with the audience, but the time was getting close to 5PM, and this was a Saturday.

There nevertheless was continued enthusiasm and a remarkably upbeat attitude throughout the two day period, even though nothing much was today happening with the commercial development of OTEC.  The cuisine served was commendable and the various products of the deep cold water at Kumejima and the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority appear to be doing well.  I was especially enthralled with sea grapes, which are like caviar, but not as salty.  The group agreed to meet next September in Kumejima, and I would not be surprised if more than a 100 conferees attend.  








I closed the discussion with a statement that OTEC will not show any kind of revival unless the price of oil skyrockets, or something like global warming becomes so serious that a major carbon tax is enacted for the world.  I think I was the only individual who even mentioned Donald Trump, but I'll skip that comment.  In the meantime, we need to advance the field as much as possible so that when the time comes, the field will be ready to move quickly.  The partnership between the islands of Kume and Hawaii (Big Island) could well be that necessary link to maintain vitality and continuity.

John De Fries provided an appropriate philosophical close to the proceedings.  We took a group photo:


And returned for a drone photo:


I came away with a more optimistic feeling about the future of OTEC and the Blue Revolution.  Like wind energy, which started slowly but has now become entrenched as a major factor in sustainability, the ocean is evolving as a future factor in Saving Planet Earth and Humanity.

Next, on the Four Seasons Hualalai!

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