HNEI conducts active, unique research in ocean energy and photovoltaics (PV and thin film), and has recently completed a small scale wind turbine demonstration in San Francisco. Our work in ocean energy emphasizes support to the U.S. Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) and toward the advancement of marine energy in the U.S. HNEI's PV work focuses on the development of new methods to integrate thin film solar materials directly onto lightweight/flexible substrates, including plastics and fabrics.
Researchers at HNEI are developing new methods to integrate thin film solar materials directly onto lightweight/flexible substrates, including plastics and fabrics. Such devices can generate enough electricity to power small electronic devices (phones and electronic tablets for civilians) and sensors (healthcare diagnosis instruments for military personnel), providing a reliable source of energy when needed. The techniques developed at the institute can be applied to various materials classes used for power electronics or renewable fuel production applications, and could potentially reduce the manufacturing costs of other mainstream thin film photovoltaic materials.
HNEI has a long history of research and development in ocean energy and resources technology, primarily in wave energy and in Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). Emerging ocean energy technologies have the potential to contribute significantly to Hawaii’s and the nation’s future energy mix. HNEI supports the Navy’s development of the nation’s first grid connected wave energy test site (WETS) at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, to conduct independent analysis for wave energy conversion device systems performance, and associated environmental monitoring.
HNEI has supported the Navy's development of the nation’s first grid connected wave energy test site (WETS) at Marine Corps Base Hawaii since 2009. In 2015, the full 3-berth site was completed, and it has hosted multiple deployments of wave energy converters (WECs) – shown below. HNEI provides performance analysis, numerical modeling of devices and moorings, wave measurement and forecasting, environmental monitoring (primarily acoustics), and logistics support to the Navy and the companies deploying at WETS. Navy funds are also being directed toward graduate student research of relevance to Navy wave energy interests.
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC)
HNEI conducts OTEC thermal gradient resource assessments, outflow plume modeling, and power plant demonstration studies of OTEC power plants for both US Navy and commercial applications. HNEI is supporting Makai Ocean Engineering to develop cost-effective heat exchanger designs and long-term corrosion testing of the aluminum materials at an OTEC demonstration facility, located at the Natural Energy Laboratory Hawaii Authority (NELHA), on Hawaii Island. With a 100 kW turbine generator, the facility is the first grid-connected, closed-cycle OTEC experimental plant in the United States.
HNEI is addressing issues associated with high penetration of intermittent wind on the electrical grid (see Grid Integration).
The massive turbines installed on land and sea are generally associated with wind energy. HNEI has done some work on a more urban scale. Nine small scale (1 kW) vertical-axis wind turbines were deployed and monitored over a four year period at the Crissy Field Center in San Francisco to evaluate performance and durability of the small, vertical axis turbines (see Energy Efficiency).