Navy expands investment at wave energy test site

Applied Research Laboratory, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute receive $9 m for testing, research

University of Hawaiʻi
Talia Ogliore, (808) 956-4531
Public Information Officer , Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research
Patrick Cross, (808) 956-5196
Senior Project Specialist, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, SOEST
Posted: Jul 21, 2014

Azura off Oregon Coast
Azura off Oregon Coast


*video, sound and still pictures available, details below

Work at the Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) located off Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kāneʻohe has received an infusion of $9 million from the U.S. Navy.  The funds, from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), are directed to the Applied Research Laboratory at the University of Hawai‘i (ARL/UH), working with UH Mānoa’s Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI), to support industry testing of wave energy conversion devices.  The Kāneʻohe site will be the first wave energy test site in the United States connected to an active power grid.

The ARL/UH has begun building a strong strategic partnership with the Navy in renewable energy research.  Retired Vice Adm. and ARL/UH Executive Director Michael Vitale said, “The Navy has established several aggressive energy goals, one of which is to produce 50 percent of its shore-based energy from renewable sources by 2020. In Hawai‘i, our diverse renewable energy resources, large defense presence, and current grid challenges offer a tremendous opportunity to apply UH’s unique research capabilities and experience to help the Navy solve their energy challenges.  Wave energy is but one of a growing list of opportunities for future energy research.”   

The wave energy resource is abundant in many parts of the country including Hawai‘i, Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, California, and the Northeast, but there is a large gap between the potential of the waves to substantially contribute to the nation’s energy needs and the reality today.  Testing at the Kāne‘ohe WETS is intended to reduce this gap by providing developers a cost effective way to test and validate their designs, with the ultimate goal of reducing cost and improving performance.  

HNEI Director Richard Rocheleau said, “HNEI is excited to be working with the Applied Research Laboratory and the Navy in providing this critical support for wave energy testing. We hope that our research efforts and support to wave energy conversion developers will allow for the testing, improvement, and ultimate deployment of wave energy production at Navy bases, in the U.S., and around the world.”

The Navy initiated testing of wave energy devices in Kāneʻohe bay several years ago with a single test berth in about 100 feet of water. Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) tested a device there until 2011. This year the Navy plans to establish two additional test berths at the site, at water depths of about 200 feet and 260 feet.  When cabled to shore and connected to the Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s power grid, the site will become the first grid-connected wave energy test site in the United States.

HNEI, with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the State of Hawai‘i, worked with the Navy to support development of an environmental assessment for the Kāneʻohe wave energy test site.  Starting in fall 2014, Northwest Energy Innovations, will deploy their Azura™ device at the 100-foot berth.  Remaining DOE funds will be used to support the testing, provide wave forecasts, conduct independent performance assessments, support regular inspections of the moorings and devices, and conduct ecological surveys and other environmental monitoring. 

The new funds from the Navy will help to expand efforts at the Kāneʻohe test site in key ways.  HNEI and its marine services partner Sea Engineering Inc. will conduct additional underwater surveys, work with technology developers to address unscheduled maintenance issues, and configure a site-dedicated support platform with diver and remote operated vehicle facilities to provide a rapid response capability.  This will reduce the cost of deployment to the developers and reduce risk.

Upon completion of the two deep-water berths, NAVFAC and DOE will fund additional companies to test their wave energy conversion devices at the Kāneʻohe site.  The Office of Naval Research and the State of Hawai‘i are providing additional funding and support for the project.



The University of Hawai‘i (UH) was established in 1907 and its campuses are all fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The UH System comprises all public higher education in the State and provides a rich array of associate, baccalaureate, graduate, and professional degrees and certificates to about 60,000 students through seven community colleges, two baccalaureate campuses and a major research university that holds land-, space- and sea-grant designations. For more information, visit



The ARL/UH was established in 2008 as one of five Navy University Affiliated Research Centers. The ARL serves as a research center of excellence for helping the Navy and other government agencies connect defense research needs with UH researchers in the areas of astronomy, ocean science, remote sensing and electro-optics, and engineering support to communications, sensors, and information technology.  For more information see:



The Hawaii Natural Energy Institute is an organized research unit of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM). The Institute performs research, conducts testing and evaluation, and manages public-private partnerships across a broad range of renewable and enabling technologies to reduce the State of Hawai‘i's dependence on fossil fuel.





Michael Vitale, Executive Director, Applied Research Laboratory (:25)

“Renewable energy as you know is very important to Hawaii, very important to the nation and we now have the opportunity to demonstrate continued research in this area, which is very important to the Navy. The third reason is it’s in wave energy. Wave energy is one of those areas where, from a renewables perspective, there’s belief of a huge amount of potential opportunity.”


Michael Vitale, Executive Director, Applied Research Laboratory (:25)

“I would say of the work that HNEI is doing that we are partnering on – this is work that will lead the nation in helping everybody understand how we can advance a higher level of integrated amount of renewables, developing a better and smarter electrical grid. We’re leading and can lead many of these areas in our research and development for the nation.”


Richard Rocheleau, Director, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, UH Mānoa (:28)

“It’s important for two reasons.  It’s going to be the first grid-connected Wave Energy Test Site in the United States. But more important from the developer point of view, it’s very difficult for them to put their systems into the water and test for extended periods of time and the WETS site is pre-permitted to allow developers to come in, put their equipment into the water and have the data collected so that they can assess its performance and its durability.”


Richard Rocheleau, Director, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, UH Mānoa (:25)

“Hawaii’s a good site for a couple of reasons.  One is that the site is pre-permitted so developers can come and get their systems into the water with out long delays so it makes it easier for their financing and their testing.

From a technical point of view it’s a good site because it has very varied wave climate, but it also has access to the water year round.”