Townhall explores ocean and wave energy for Guam

Islands like Guam face the challenge of developing resilient electricity infrastructure and energy systems, often relying on expensive and unreliable systems vulnerable to natural disasters and rising energy costs. To address this challenge, the University of Guam Sea Grant hosted a town hall meeting on November 15 to gather stakeholder input on the viability of using ocean and wave energy systems. 

Over 50 representatives from various sectors attended the meeting. The first part featured presentations on ocean and wave energy systems, while the second facilitated a focus group discussion with key stakeholders. 

The town hall discussions will inform two UOG projects. First, a collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sea Grant College Program and the US Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office, will assess public perceptions of ocean energy. 

The project’s principal investigator, Austin Shelton, PhD, UOG Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant director, emphasized the importance of diversifying the island’s energy source. 

“We have an abundant set of resources around us for renewable energy. We are very familiar with the sun and solar panels but now it is time to move to other areas of sustainability and renewable energy. That’s what we discussed — how we can take advantage of the resources around us in terms of ocean energy and do that in a way that is best for our island community,” Shelton said. 

Francis Dalisay, PhD, UOG associate professor of communication and media and co-principal investigator said the town hall was a valuable opportunity for stakeholder engagement, “We were encouraged by the positive feedback we received from participants. It’s clear that there is a strong interest in developing ocean energy in Guam.” 

The second project will assess the feasibility of using ocean energy technology to power the planned Guam Aquaculture Innovation Center. It will explore the potential of using ocean thermal electric conversion (OTEC) and wave-energy converter (WEC) systems to generate electricity for the facility. UOG partnered with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and SANDIA National Laboratories for the project. 

Fleur de Peralta, Senior Advisor in the Risk and Decision Sciences Group at PNNL, the project’s principal investigator, said the focus groups had diverse participants. “We learned a lot from fishing community folks. It seems like some of the older folks are convinced — yes let’s have it, let’s do it now. And then there are some folks that were like — we need more information on the design. These are all valid questions.” 

Bastian Benlage, PhD, UOG associate professor of bioinformatics, added, “We talked with a number of our stakeholders that are involved in aquaculture and fisheries and overall, the perception was very positive because they see the potential for lowering energy bills for the equipment that are used to constantly run an aquaculture facility.”  

In his presentation, David Crisostomo, a UOG aquaculture specialist, highlighted the Guam Aquaculture Innovation Center’s significance. He said the center has the potential to transform Guam’s aquaculture industry by providing a centralized location for research, education, and commercial production. 

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