Public attitudes toward the development of seawater air conditioning in Waikiki

Jonathan Lilley, Iman Nasseri, Denise Konan, Darren T. Lerner, David Karl
University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program, United States

Keywords: Seawater air conditioning, marine energy, public opinion, Waikiki

Seawater air conditioning (SWAC) is an energy displacement technology that uses cold (~44°F) deep seawater to chill indoor air. If developed in Waikiki, SWAC could save approximately 48 million kilowatt-hours of electricity (equivalent to 106,000 barrels of oil) and 157 million gallons of freshwater per year. It would also prevent the annual release of 50,000 tons of harmful emissions while reducing air conditioning operating costs. With Hawaii currently relying on fossil fuels for 90% of its electricity generation, SWAC could make a significant contribution to the state’s goal of a 70% reduction in fossil fuel use by 2030 and would promote a more sustainable tourism industry in Waikiki. Here we present the findings of a mail survey that investigated the attitudes of Oahu residents toward a potential SWAC system in Waikiki. We find that while only 55% of Oahu residents were aware of SWAC, 62% support its development in Waikiki. This number rises to 70% among those who had heard of SWAC prior to receiving the survey. However, SWAC fares less favorably when compared to eight other clean energy alternatives – ranking second to last. In addition, we compare public perceptions of Hawaii’s current energy situation with reality.

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