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Research Support Facility Turned Business Incubator
NELHA began as "NELH" in 1974 when the Hawaii State Legislature
created the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii on 322 acres
of land at Keahole Point. NELH was mandated to provide a support
facility for research on the ocean thermal energy conversion
(OTEC) process and its related technologies.
In 1979, a barge dubbed "Mini-OTEC," anchored offshore
of Keahole Point, demonstrated the world€s first production
of net electrical power via closed-cycle OTEC.
In 1980, after necessary environmental impact and other
surveys were completed and master permits obtained, the NELH
facilities and first pipeline to draw deep seawater from 2000
feet and surface seawater from 45 feet depths were constructed
at Keahole Point.
In 1981, shore-based OTEC research began with a project
testing biofouling and corrosion countermeasures for the closed
cycle OTEC process.
By 1984 it had become apparent that the seawater being
pumped up for OTEC research could also be channeled into many
other profitable uses. New legislation legalized commercialization
on state property allowing NELH to host new tenant business
In 1985, the Legislature created the Hawaii Ocean Science
and Technology (HOST) Park on an adjacent 548 acres at Keahole
in anticipation of expansion needs of NELH's growing businesses.
In 1990, HOST Park and NELH were melded into one agency,
the NELH Authority (NELHA), attached to the Department of Business,
Economic Development & Tourism of the Hawaii State Government.
In 1998-99, the Legislature expanded the activities allowed
at NELHA to include other business activities that could enhance
economic development and generate additional revenues to support
the growing park.
Today, NELHA is "landlord" to nearly 30 thriving enterprises
which generate about $30-40 million per year in total economic
impact, including tax revenues, over 200 jobs, construction
activity and high value product exports. Two pipeline systems
pump deep and surface seawater to shore 24/7 and a third, the
world's largest and deepest (to a depth of 3,000 feet), is being