Maui selected for smart-grid demonstration
June 5, 2011 - mauinews.com
WAILUKU - Maui has been selected as the site for a "smart grid" renewable energy demonstration project, with an investment of approximately $37 million from the Japan-based New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, Hawaiian Electric Co. announced Wednesday afternoon.
The project is aimed at making better use of renewable energy resources, such as solar and wind power, and preparing the island's power system for the widespread use of electric vehicles.
Installation of the smart-grid technology is expected to begin in late 2012, with the project becoming operational in 2013. The project is scheduled to run from 2013 to 2015.
Six Japanese companies will work with U.S. project partners to develop and install smart-grid technologies on the Valley Isle, the announcement said.
The companies include Hitachi Ltd., Hewlett-Packard Japan Ltd., Mizuho Corporate Bank Ltd., Sharp Corp., JFE Engineering Corp. and Cyber Defense Institute Inc.
"With its high levels of variable renewable energy, Maui is a perfect location to test these smart-grid technologies," said Richard Rocheleau, director of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawaii. "Through this Japanese-U.S. partnership, we can demonstrate how these technologies can help solve Maui's energy challenges and be used in other parts of the world, especially on other island systems such as ours."
The technology is well-suited for locations such as Hawaii and Japan, said Robbie Alm, Hawaiian Electric executive vice president.
"Like Hawaii, Japan is looking for ways to better use clean energy on smaller electric systems that serve individual islands," he said. "By pooling our resources and our expertise, we can develop solutions that will help significantly increase our use of clean energy sources."
Hawaiian Electric officials said that the project will include installation of smart controls in South Maui at the regional and neighborhood levels to improve integration of variable renewable energy resources, such as photovoltaic systems.
The improvements will include distributed control systems to manage resources, such as smart inverters, to regulate output of photovoltaic systems, load control devices and controls to manage electric vehicle charging stations and battery storage systems.
The project is aimed at being a solution to one of the biggest challenges in integrating an existing power grid with renewable energy, which fluctuates depending on whether it's windy or the sun is shining. Electric grids need a consistent, reliable source of power, which so far has been provided primarily through turbines driven by diesel or other fossil fuels.
"Technical innovations such as smart-grid applications will increase the island grid's capability to minimize the system reliability impact of interconnected renewable energy resources and can make Hawaii a model for other areas around the world that face similar conditions," said Estrella Seese, acting energy program administrator for the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism's Energy Office.
The smart system will also help pave the way for more common use of electric vehicles, Hawaiian Electric officials said.
Plans call for the development of an advanced charging management system to connect Maui Electric Co. system controls with charging stations islandwide, allowing the utility to actively manage electric vehicle charging to balance power generation and load.
The project is part of the Hawaii-Okinawa Partnership on Clean and Efficient Energy Development and Deployment, which was signed by the U.S. Department of Energy; the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan; the state of Hawaii; and the prefecture of Okinawa in June 2010.