Jun 19

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET on Kume Island in Okinawa, publisher of the blog MoreThingsJapanese.com and author of the award-winning YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

IMG_8812_1June 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 50kWs of electricity from a turbine driven by the difference in warm surface sea water and cold deep sea water.

IMG_9149This station is the only power generating OTEC facility of its kind in the world.   While OTEC is not a new idea and different countries are now studying its possibilities, this is the first step towards creating an effective market for the future.  In addition to power, 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 Prefecture 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. Its construction has been part of a continuing dialog on clean energy between Kume Island, Okinawa, and the National Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority and their OTEC project, but was designed and built under advisement from Saga University’s Institute of Ocean Energy.

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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

IMG_9707These 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.

IMG_9463The 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.

Visit MoreThingsJapanese.com for more pictures from the event and more on OTEC power.


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