How Hawaii turned its amazing surfing into renewable energy.

Hawaii is basically where good little surfers get to go when they die.

I mean, can you ask for a more picturesque location? Warm weather, sandy beaches, the majesty of the Pacific Ocean right in front of your face. Imagining standing there, watching those beautiful, aquamarine waves roll in … man, you can’t help but feel a little amped up, right?

But now, those waves are electrifying more than just surfers. They're also powering homes.

Photo by Northwest Energy Innovations.


In Kaneohe Bay, barely noticeable from shore, two wave turbine machines bob in the surf. Since this summer, they’ve steadily been producing electricity, funneling it back through undersea cables to a nearby military base and onto the Oahu power grid.

These are the United States’ first grid-connected wave energy generators. They were set up by the Navy, which is interested in testing them as power sources for refueling stations and remote communities.

"More power from more places translates to a more agile, more flexible, more capable force," the AP quoted Joseph Bryan, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy, as saying. "So we're always looking for new ways to power the mission."

If they work,  communities all across America’s coastlines could use them, not just the Navy.

The Hawaii site is testing two different designs of wave energy makers.

An expert shows off a model of the devices. Photo from Cathy Bussewitz/AP.

The first is called Azura, and it looks kind of like a hefty version of a football goalpost. The other’s called Lifesaver, and it looks, well, kind of like a huge lifesaver. The researchers are putting the devices through the gauntlet to see which design will most reliably put out power and withstand the ocean’s tremendous forces and corrosive salt spray.

Between the two, they’re producing about enough energy to power just over a dozen homes right now. But later versions might be able to juice up hundreds of homes at a time, and they could be set up in big groups as well.

Imagine if these generators were set up on every coastline.

"When you think about all of the states that have water along their coasts ... there's quite a bit of wave energy potential," the AP quoted Jose Zayas, a director of the Wind and Water Power Technologies Office at the U.S. Energy Department, as saying. He also suggested that if we were to really get our heads in the game, 20% to 28% of all of our electricity could eventually come from the ocean.

Other researchers are currently planning on building test sites in Oregon and California, too.

That said, wave power is one area of renewable energy where we’ve been lagging behind in the U.S. We’ll need to build a more large-scale infrastructure — something other countries are already doing — if we actually want to make this work. In Scotland, for example, they have been experimenting with wave and tidal energy for more than a decade.

A wave energy device in Scotland. Photo from P123/Wikimedia Commons.

The good news, though, is that we can learn from other countries’ experiences and use them as a guide as we try to get in the game.

Hawaii has given itself a mandate to be completely powered by renewables by 2045, which is a huge goal.

It's a smart plan for the collection of islands because otherwise they have to rely on giant, expensive container ships to deliver fossil fuels.

The ocean is one of the greatest natural wonders on our planet, and it has given us so much — food, transportation, and, yes, totally amazing surfing spots. And if we keep focusing on the ocean, maybe it can give us renewable energy, too.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

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Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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