Power Surfing

Hawaii is testing technology that turns surf into an energy source

An Azura device moored off the eastern coast of Oahu, in Hawaii.

An Azura device moored off the eastern coast of Oahu, in Hawaii.

Earlier this month, David Ige, the governor of Hawaii, signed into law legislation that would require the state to become 100-percent energy independent by 2045. To transition away from being the most fossil fuel-dependent state into a model of self-sufficiency, a handful of exciting ventures are taking form. Among the bold ideas proposed was a plan to harness electricity out of the surf.

Off the coast of Kanehoe, on Oahu's eastern shore, the nation's first grid-connected wave energy device bobs up and down with the ebb and flow of the sea. Known as the Azura, the machine—which is currently being used as a test device—has been moored to the sea floor and creates electricity out of the surf that inundates the area. For the next year, Northwest Energy Innovations, a company based out of Portland, OR, will work with the state and the Navy to test the Azura. If the machine performs as well as some expect, it could mark a major shift in the way the island's harness their electricity.

"This deployment marks a milestone for our team and the marine renewable energy industry," said Steve Kopf, of Northwest Energy Innovations. Other similar devices have been tested in the past, but the deployment of the Azura, which generates power from both the energy created by waves moving an element of the machine vertically and horizontally, marks the first time this device has been connected to an actual power grid.

In the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Hawaii State Rep. Cynthia Thielen was very enthusiastic about the potential of wave-generated power for the islands. "Wave energy definitely is a game changer for Hawaii," Thielen said. "Tapping into the powerful and constant ocean movement will enable us to reach our renewable goals more quickly."