Derelict fishing nets are turned into electricity

Published: May. 14, 2009 at 12:46 AM HST|Updated: May. 14, 2009 at 7:57 PM HST
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Jim Banigan
Jim Banigan
Kris McElwee
Kris McElwee

By Roger Mari - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - There's a program that gets abandoned fishing nets, "out" of the ocean. Floating around in the North Pacific, they're hazardous to marine mammals, coral reefs and fishing boats.

Long-line fisherman in Hawaii help, by hauling in these nets. A special container is available for the nets at pier 38.

In three months, more than 9,000 pounds of nets were collected by fishermen and other local groups. And while the nets make landfall, they won't end up in landfills. Instead, they're turned into energy.

From the harbor the nets are taken to Schnitzer Steel at Campbell Industrial Park.

They're cut up into smaller pieces along with other fishing nets. Over the past few years, Schnitzer Steel has netted two environmental awards for their work.

"We're involved in the total process. It's rewarding to see that we take it from beginning to end," said Jim Banigan of Schnitzer Steel.

Now, resembling nothing used for fishing, the nets are sent down the road to H-Power. Tons of waste is dropped off here every day to be made into energy.

"Some of it happens to be drift nets that have been brought over by Schnitzer Steel to use for fuel as well," said Rodney Smith of Covanta Energy.

The nets are hammered down by bulldozers to the correct size for the boiler. They are then placed on a conveyor, where a magnet helps bring out about 75% of the ferrous material used for combustion. The steam generated in the boilers is used to run a turbine, which is coupled to a generator. Both spin at around 3,600 revolutions per minute. This produces about 46 megawatts of electricity.

"Which is good to power about 40,000 homes and we handle about 2000 tons a day of waste," said Rodney Smith.

It's a combination of humans and machinery working to achieve one goal.

"It's only a success because of all the partners who work together under the unified belief that marine debris is bad and that we can all do something, no matter how small to solve this problem," said Kris McElwee of NOAA.

From the ocean to the earth and into hundreds of homes, it's an uplifting experience for everyone involved in keeping north pacific waters net free.

To date, Hawaii's "Nets to Energy" program has brought in 658 tons of nets, providing power for 283 homes.