Environmental Assessment of OTEC in Hawaii

Christina Comfort, a MSc. student in Biological Oceanography from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa , worked with Luis Vega Ph.D. as a research assistant in assessing the potential environmental impact of OTEC in Hawaii. Their research focused on centralizing the existing (published and unpublished) environmental and physical oceanographic data relevant to OTEC implementation in Oahu, Hawaii. The results have been published in a paper which can be found below.

In her paper Ms. Comfort highlights some of the most important contributions in characterizing the environmental impacts. She addresses existing knowledge gaps, but also stresses that a lot of data is already available and that coherently structuring this data will help solve many of today’s questions.

OTEC survey locations

Image of bathymetry and hillshade of SE Oahu mentioning the OTEC data locations and OTEC survey grid (magenta)

In the interest of moving OTEC technologies forward efficiently, Ms. Comfort recommends using existing data sets as baseline environmental information for OTEC, and proposes a one year directed baseline monitoring program to fill in remaining gaps and assess the current validity of older datasets.  Using existing datasets to contribute to baseline environmental assessment efforts enables researchers to move more rapidly  towards studying OTEC facilities in operation, rather than only by modeling. Once the first OTEC pilot plant is installed, ongoing operational monitoring will allow researchers to ascertain and quantify the scale of environmental impacts by direct observation and ground-truthing of existing models.

For more information about the work of Ms. Comfort, please view the links below:

[1] Presentation: http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/PFRP/dec11mtg/Comfort.pdf

[2] Paper: http://hinmrec.hnei.hawaii.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Environmental-Assessment-of-OTEC-in-Hawaii1.pdf

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