Meet Our Ambassadors: Jack Reetz III and the Healy Wave Energy Converter Project

    By Jack Reetz III

My name is Jack Reetz and I want to save the planet. Who doesn’t? However, I’m 21 years old and I’m just now feeling that I have a way to make my voice heard. Six months ago, I probably would’ve told anybody that there was no way for my voice to be heard. Aside from posting on social media, I never felt like I made an impact. In many regards, I know I have an important role to play in saving our planet. I’ve only recently found a way to get involved, and make an impact. I hope to express to future generations that making an impact is a far less daunting task than I anticipated.

In the socially confused, social-media oriented world we live in today, I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way. With media outlets constantly spewing information in our faces, it’s OVERWHELMING for those who are trying to make a difference. It’s overwhelming for a person like me to be able to confidently support causes that we feel passionate about.

How can I live a fun life, make money, and still fight for something I believe in? These are the thoughts that begin trickling into young minds when college and “real jobs” are on the horizon. In high school, I was pushed to focus on one specific field of study. I chose the business route. It took until senior year of high school for me to realize that I could combine my passions, and make a living out of it.

Climate change as a movement and as a pressing issue, was not of any concern until senior year of high school. I love to ski, I’ve always loved being outside. I’ve always loved helping the community and giving back. Senior year, I learned that 50% of all carbon emissions are emitted by the richest 10% of the world’s population. I learned that we, as inhabitants of the Earth, have kickstarted the 6th mass extinction. I knew in that moment that my passions and my career trajectory were going to overlap. The world is on fire, and corporate business owners are to blame. I’ll take my business degree, and focus it towards making these corporations more sustainable for the future of our planet, while making them more sustainable and increasing their bottom line. I landed on Green Business.

The moral of my story is that there are millions of jobs and opportunities that overlap and go hand-in-hand with climate change. I’ve been lucky enough to recognize and be able to combine my passions. The social and entrepreneurial world that is business, in many respects, is identical to the world of environmental science and climate change. This can most certainly be said for mechanics, social workers, professors, athletes, engineers, lawyers, politicians, etc. It’s all connected, and soon enough, it will all be impacted by climate change. The Kennebunkport Climate Initiative is trying to send the same message.

It seems my journey has come full circle when I started my role as a youth ambassador for the Kennebunkport Climate Initiative. In this role, the KCI team urged me to connect my major and passion for Green Business to a hands-on climate action project. The project that I’ve recently been lucky enough to start working on directly relates to the climate, and requires millions of working hands from wildly different areas of study. Despite coming from all different backgrounds and focuses, they all have come together to work as a team, to battle climate change, and potentially change the world. The project is called the Healy Wave Energy Converter.

The Healy Wave Energy Converter Background

The Healy Wave Energy Converter (HWEC) is a concept that has been built as a renewable source of energy. Similar to solar panels taking energy from the sun and converting the energy to electricity, the HWEC takes the power of waves and converts that to electricity. This specific machine is a prototype 48-ton moored buoy that will be deployed off the Isle of Shoals in the Gulf of Maine in the summer of 2021 for an open-ocean evaluation. The HWEC will be deployed for one year to test durability, efficiency, costs, and many other variables.

The HWEC itself! #shoutoutKCI (right) on my project mentor, Dave Jourdan’s (KCI Science Community Liaison) hard hat.

How it Works: The HWEC is built like a small offshore drilling tower. A buoy section rides on the surface of the water, and contains the top of an air piston. Below this metal hunk of fun, is an “inertia tube”. This kind of looks like a large, metal-layered basketball shooting sleeve. The tube extends below the surface and is not as affected by the waves. Connected to the tube is a buoy system that bobs up and down while the inertia tube stays stable, sliding in and out of the piston. This motion creates a flow of air which is used to drive the turbine and create electricity.

The Healy Team

The project was founded by the legend himself, Jim Healy. He’s a successful life-long inventor with over 90 patents and a passion for the ocean and the environment. The machine itself was built by Hammer Haag, in Clearwater FL. HH is a massive steel company that worked with Jim to complete various aspects of the design and mechanical engineering of the project. One of Jim’s most successful patents was the fuel vapor recovery systems that are installed in over 100,000 gas stations worldwide. I’m glad he turned his engineering brilliance to the challenge of developing renewable energy!

Myself, next to the managers/masterminds behind the HWEC (Jim, center).

From steel workers to engineers, project managers to professors, there are a whole host of professions that are going to work to make this project a reality. Follow this blogl as I highlight all the many hands it takes to change the climate. Along with Jim Healy himself, the KCI team and I are preparing interviews for other project managers involved with the HWEC. Stay tuned!

The Future of The Healy Project

As we follow this project, we are learning all that it takes to create new technology and navigate the hurdles of such a massive effort. These hurdles are everything from logistics; like permitting and transportation, to environmental concerns and opposition. One of the biggest challenges of the project is to configure the HWEC mooring so that it doesn’t pose an entanglement risk on the endangered North Atlantic Right Whales in the area. It takes a range of different minds, and organizations to come together to problem-solve and create a solution that is agreed to by all.

While there are other wave energy devices in development, this unique design must be tested to see how it compares/competes in conserving energy. The HWEC has the potential to revolutionize an entire sector of climate change; renewable energy. After observing the machine and its working and members in person, I can proudly say that the future of renewable wave energy is full of promise. We at KCI will be following along to see the progress, and new technologies developed through the completion of the HWEC.

I appreciate you for making it this far, and thanks for learning about a project with so much potential in the renewable energy space. I hope that my journey to studying the climate, and the effort of all hands involved with the HWEC, prove how limitless your options are if you want to help change the climate. If you are interested in getting more information on the project, you can do so at https://www.healywaveenergy.com. And stay tuned here at KCI for more coverage on the Healy project over the next year leading up to deployment!