Hawaii’s new OTEC power plant harvests energy stored in warm ocean water

Hawaii became the first state in the US to generate electricity from the thermal energy stored in ocean water using a new 105-kilowatt ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) plant on Big Island, reports Bloomberg. The OTEC plant cost $5 million to build and is the world’s largest power plant using this renewable and clean energy source. The project was funded and developed through a collaboration between Hawaii’s Makai Ocean Engineering, the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research, and the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) at the University of Hawaii.

Ocean thermal energy uses the temperature difference between warm surface water and deep cold ocean water to drive a turbine that is used to produce electricity. Because it relies on surface heating from sunlight, the supply of ocean thermal energy is practically limitless, especially in tropical areas where the ocean’s surface water heats up quickly. Much like a fossil fuel plant, the OTEC system provides this energy in a steady stream that can be ramped up or scaled down quickly in response to demand. Not only is it a constant and clean energy source, the OTEC system also is capable of producing “a massive amount of energy,” claim Makai staff.

OTEC shows promise as a renewable energy source, with a a commercial OTEC plant potentially producing electricity at the rate of $0.20 per kilowatt-hour. A single commercial-scale plant also would prevent the burning of 1.3 million barrels of oil and the emission of a half million tons of carbon each year. Currently, though, the technology is still in the research stage with Hawaii’s new 105-kilowatt plant only generating enough electricity to power 120 homes. It would take 12 commercial-level plants to supply Hawaii with 100 percent of its power needs.

Despite its infancy, Makai Ocean Engineering believes the technology is poised to take off and has plans to build a larger 1-megawatt facility in Japan. The biggest hindrance to the technology’s expansion now is financial and not technical. The technology is reliable, but the company lacks the funds to move beyond its small pilot plants and develop a larger, more expensive commercial-scale operation.

Emerging Tech

It’s no flying car, but the e-scooter had a huge impact on city streets in 2018

Within just a year, electric scooters have fundamentally changed how we navigate cities. From San Francisco to Paris, commuters have a new option that’s more fun than mass transit, easier than a bike, and definitely not a car.
Business

How to start your online business in 6 simple steps

Making the right choices now can greatly impact your success down the line, and the last thing you want to do is spend your energy revisiting old decisions instead of growing your company.
Product Review

The Nuimo Click’s self-powering control convenience is cool but costly

Smart home devices might be clever, but needing your phone to use them is not. Senic’s Nuimo Click is the set of physical buttons that your smart devices are missing. But these smart, self-powered buttons aren’t cheap.
Smart Home

Tank vs. tankless heaters: Why tankless is not always the best choice

Tank vs. tankless water heater: Which is better? While some people think tankless is the better choice, that's not always the case. Here, we lay out the pros and cons to each, so you can make a more informed decision when shopping around.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Self-driving cars, ocean exploration, and holiday shopping

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discussed the first self-driving car service in Phoenix, an expedition heading to the bottom of the world's oceans, and talked to Liz Dunn from Pro4ma about holiday shopping trends.
Emerging Tech

Intel wants its fleet of drones to monitor America’s aging, unsafe bridges

Intel has signed a deal to use its Falcon 8+ drones to carry out bridge inspections. The hope is that these drones will be useful in spotting potential problems before they become serious.
Giveaways

Print your heart’s desire: Enter our giveaway to win a free Monoprice 3D printer

We’re giving away a $400 Monoprice MP Voxel 3D Printer. It's easy to use, especially for beginners, with its simple menu system and touchscreen display. It comes fully assembled so you can spend more time printing instead of setting up.
Emerging Tech

Transplanted pig hearts show promise in baboon trials. Are humans next?

Researchers in Germany have successfully transplanted modified pig hearts into baboons. The results take us one step closer to ending organ transplant waiting lists for good. Here's why.
Emerging Tech

An A.I. cracks the internet’s squiggly letter bot test in 0.5 seconds

How do you prove that you’re a human when communicating on the internet? The answer used to be by solving a CAPTCHA puzzle. But maybe not for too much longer. Here is the reason why.
Emerging Tech

Makerbot is back with a new 3D printer that’s faster and more precise than ever

MakerBot's new Method 3D printer aims to bridge the gap between home 3D printers and more industrial 3D printing tech. Here are a few of the tantalizing things you can expect from it.
Emerging Tech

Warm ski beanie instantly hardens into a head-protecting helmet upon impact

Wool hats are way more comfortable than hard helmets. You know what they're not? Safer. That could soon change, thanks to an innovative new ski beanie which instantly hardens upon impact.
Deals

Take to the skies with these 5 drones on sale for under $50

On the hunt for some cool tech for under $50? We've rounded up 5 drones under $50 that you can still get before Christmas. These models are great for kids, adults, and anyone just getting started with drones.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…