Tomorrow the County of Hawaii Will Enter Into a Sister City Relationship with the Island of Kumejima, Okinawa, Japan

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The County of Hawaii will enter into a Sister City Relationship with the island of Kumejima, Okinawa, Japan on Sunday during a Ocean Thermal Energy Workshop (OTEC) at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii (NELHA).

The signing ceremony will take place at noon. The Mayor of Kumejima, Choukou Taira, and County of Hawaii Mayor Billy Kenoi will enter into the agreement, which will stress economic ties rather than the traditional cultural bonds of sister city relationships.

Kumejima is an island about 50 miles east of Naha, Okinawa. Much like Hawaii Island of about 20 years ago, Kumejima’s economy is based on the visitor industry and sugar cane, known as sato kibi in Japan.

Kumejima, which has a climate and appearance similar to Kauai, also shares another similarity with Hawaii Island, a deep sea pipeline which has allowed aquaculture to blossom on the island, which is about the same size as Molokai.

In November, public and private officials visited Kumejima to take part in an OTEC Workshop, where the possibility of a partnership between Kumejima and Hawaii Island was discussed. This pact, which could result in the establishment of a demonstration plant at NELHA using the 55-inch pipelines already installed at the facility on Keahole Point, will be further discussed at the workshop by Japanese and American officials.

It was during this visit in November that the governments of Kumejima and Hawaii County realized that a sister city relationship would be a natural extension of the proposed natural energy partnership taking place at the time.

“We are honored to enter into this agreement with Kumejima,” said Mayor Kenoi. “The similarities between our islands are striking, including the fact that we are both outlying islands of island groups far away from their mainland countries. I think we can learn many things from each other as we both strive to break our dependence on fossil fuels.”

OTEC technology, which was successfully tested off Keahole Point in the 1970s, uses the temperature difference of deep sea and surface water to make a working fluid — in this case ammonia — to “boil.”

The boiling fluid releases “steam” which is used to drive a turbine.

Intensive OTEC research is now taking place in a number of places in the world, including NELHA, where Lockheed-Martin recently blessed a facility, and at Saga University in Saga, Japan, where scientists are generating electricity using a small demonstration unit.

“OTEC has the potential to provide virtually inexhaustible, clean energy in the equatorial regions of the earth,” said Kenoi. “This is an opportunity for Hawaii Island to play a role in furthering a technology that could have worldwide implications.”

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