June 16th marked the beginning of power generation at Kume Island‘s Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Power Plant with a ceremony and visiting dignitaries from around Japan and the world. The newly completed OTEC power plant will be able to generate up to 50 kilowatts of electricity from a thermal expansion turbine. The turbine is propelled by temperature variations provided by warm surface water and cold deep-sea water.
This station is the first of its kind in the world, creating energy in a clean manner. The mineral rich deep-sea waters used by the plant can be used in a variety of industries, making the entire process more efficient and beneficial. The station is part of the Okinawa Prefectural Deep Sea Water Research Institute, and as the goal of the institute is to research the deep-sea water, the power plant’s primary role will be as a research and educational tool.
The plant’s construction and development has been part of a continuing dialog on clean energy and aquaculture between Kume Island, Okinawa, and the National Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (Hawaii County and Kume Island have been sister cities for two years) and their numerous projects, but was designed by Engineers associated with Saga University’s Institute of Ocean Energy. Dr. Ikegami from the institute and Dr. Jitsuhara from Xenesys were central to the implementation of the project.
The ceremony marked the official start of power generation after initial testing and the first power generated in March of this year. Starting at ten in the morning, visitors were invited to the Research Institute Grounds to view the OTEC plant, sample some of the many products made with deep-sea water, and enjoy entertainment by artists from local to abroad. The open fair was followed by a half-hour ceremony with speeches and messages that ended with the pushing of the ‘start’ button. Special guests included:
- Aiko Shimajiri – Parliamentary Secretary of Cabinet Office and Ministry of Reconstruction from the House of Councilors
- Akikazu Shimoji – Okinawa Commerce and Labor Department Industrial Development Supervising Officer
- Yoshihisa Kawakami – The Okinawan Vice-Governor
- Alfred Mageleby – Consul General form the American Consulate General Naha
- Nonaka Tomoyo – Director of the Gaia Initiative
- Mark McGuffie – Managing Director of Enterprise Honolulu
- Gregory Barbour – Executive Director of NELHA
These guests were all involved in different aspects of promoting the OTEC project on Kume Island in communicating with the Hawaii OTEC program. This historic achievement will have an important role in the local economy and development of Kume Island and will be a key test of this clean energy technology for institutions around the world.
The official events ended with a reception before the nearby visitor’s center where more performances took place and several speakers were invited to share their thoughts on the OTEC start and future of the program. Keynote speaker Nonaka Tomoyo surprised Kume Island Mayor Taira with a proposal for creating free WiFi on the island, which the mayor was just able to avoid commenting on. Though it was a positive proposal, the Mayor is limited in the ways he can promote growth on the small island. Luckily, organizations like Gaia Initiative and the sister-city partnership with Hawaii County are providing knowledge and political support to help Kume Island grow technologically and economically.
The celebration will continue Monday with talks by people involved with OTEC. The continued dialog between interested parties promotes new ideas and the sharing of vital information.
For the future, project supporters hope that the power plant will justify the creation of a new deep water pipeline and expanded capacity generators which will allow for more industries and power. Both Hawaii and Kume Island will continue to communicate and share information that will help the different projects create new opportunities for efficient use of the deep-sea water and OTEC power.
*Updated: Special Thanks to those in the industry who pointed out a few technical errors!
NHK, Japan’s national broadcast company has created a short video highlighting the new Kumejima OTEC plant and the impact of Xenesys and the Saga University Facilities. Check it out here (This link is broken. It seems the video was taken down, however, I’ll leave the link in case it comes back online). -> http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/newsline/201307041117.html (English)
And another program on OTEC in Japanese