Turning marine debris into electricity may have once been an idea of the future, but in Hawai’i, it’s actually reality.
Marine debris of all shapes, sizes and materials accumulates in and around the islands of Hawai’i. Much of the debris is made up of abandoned fishing gear including nets, lines, and commercial fishing traps. The debris endangers marine wildlife and even navigation through the surrounding water. In 2002 a NOAA-funded initiative set out to resolve this problem by converting some of the marine debris into electricity.
Every year, Nets-to-Energy removes large conglomerations of nets that can each weigh thousands of pounds, from Hawaii’s reefs and shores. After collection, the nets are chopped into small pieces suitable for combustion at an energy from waste facility. There the nets are burned, producing steam, which drives a turbine that creates usable electricity.
Over the past decade more than 800 metric tons of derelict nets have been used to create electricity through the Nets-To-Energy program. Today, all NOAA-funded marine debris removal projects in Hawai’i incorporate this recycling program as one component of the project.
The program has already produced enough energy to power 300 island homes for a full year. We look forward to seeing this program progress and evolve.
All photos from NOAA’s Marine Debris Program website.