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TEO Acting Director Tim Jones says OTEC our best option for renewable power

Although it will be costly to implement Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) as a renewable power source for American Samoa, the Territorial Energy Office acting director Timothy Jones says this is the best option for a small island territory, which is surrounded by ocean water.


“My focus is on a guaranteed energy source — which is the heat in the ocean that the sun provides every day,” Jones told senators during his confirmation hearing late last month. “And the sun shining on the ocean is the largest solar panel in the world.”


“It captures heat and stores it 24-hours. We can tap into this heat and we can draw it from the ocean. It's just a matter  of energy conversion. I understand this technology very, very well and I’m sure I can deploy it for the best interest of all in American Samoa,” said Jones, who was approved by the House, but later rejected by the Senate.


During his Senate confirmation hearing, Jones said,  “it is my vision for American Samoa to tap the sea for a 24-hour reliable energy source”. When asked by the committee as to an estimated cost for such a project, Jones first pointed out that ASPA spends nearly $100 million a year on diesel energy.


He said the cost of the ocean project power station will be “close to $400 million” which sounds like a lot of money (because it is a lot of money) but is about four years of pay-back time — adding that in the business community, any project that can be paid back "within a 10-year period is a good project.”


Responding to questions about any other country in the world in which this type of power plant or project is used, Jones said there is a plant built in Hawai’i and it is operational; however, the plant is faced with difficulties for reasons that wouldn’t really apply to American Samoa.


He said the problem in Hawai’i is that they need to also get to “deep cold-water... to help the plant operate.”


In American Samoa “our deep waters are close to our shores” but not in Hawai’i, where the pipes have to be taken “way out to sea” to reach the deep cold waters, he said, adding that there is a Hawai’i contractor with the blue-prints for such a power station, using the ocean as an energy source.


While the cost of about $400 million “is significantly large number”, Jones said “there are businesses all over the world, that would come running to our door to build that power plant, because American Samoa has a steady customer base that already spends more than $100 million in fuel every year.”


“If we get [federal] grant money and the United States recognizes this as being a good project, to stabilize both our power and the economy for American Samoa, I believe we would have great benefits, where we can cut the utility rate way below-half, in a six to eight year period,” he said and noted that an environmental assessment will be needed for this project.


Regarding the use of ocean waves as a power source, Jones said, this is also not a consistent power source, as our local tidal waves are not large — they average about 3 feet, which is “not enough for us to tap into that power”.


 He also spoke about solid-waste as a form of renewable energy, adding that this is a very good project, which TEO and ASPA are working on together.


“The ocean is consistent power — it's something that is there — that we can rely on 24/7. However, it’s the most expensive way to go about it. So it's our job to manage it, put out a proposal and see what is in the best interest of both money and time and for all the people of American Samoa,” he said.


The current First Regular Session of the 33rd Legislature closed this past Friday and lawmakers won’t return until July, which is when the governor has the choice to either resubmit the nomination for Jones or send the Fono a new director-nominee for TEO.