Hawaii picks Maui luxury resort as
site to test smart-grid technology
Oct 12, 2009 - Larry Greenemeier
- Scientific American (Sciam.com)
has been working for more than a year to map out concrete
plans to harness the abundant—though unpredictable—winds
that blow across the state's numerous islands. As
the state and its utilities draw up plans for wind
farms and other green-energy facilities to help meet
the goal of pulling 70 percent of power from clean
energy by 2030, General Electric Company has announced
it will test its smart-grid technology (designed to
efficiently manage energy from a variety of sources
while cutting down on overall consumption) in the
Maui luxury resort community of Wailea, the Associated
The test is expected to reduce peak electricity consumption
in this 10.4-square-mile patch of land by 15 percent
by 2012. Half of the $14 million Maui project is paid
for with a federal Department of Energy grant, with
the rest of the resources and personnel contributed
by General Electric and Hawaiian Electric Company.
The pilot is being treated as part of the federal
economic recovery package, according to the AP, which
included $4.5 billion for smart grid development.
Hawaii remains the nation's most fossil-fuel dependent
state, with imports supplying about 90 percent of
its power needs.
Maui, whose peak load is about 200 megawatts throughout
the island, already receives nearly 10 percent of
its energy from wind, but minute-to-minute wind fluctuations
prevent wind power from being a reliable source of
energy for the grid.
GE announced in July it was working with Hawaiian
Electric, Maui Electric Company, the University of
Hawaii's Natural Energy Institute and the U.S. Energy
Department to launch the Maui Smart Grid project.
This project's goal is to develop and demonstrate
the use of smart grid technologies and help Maui Electric
control peak circuit demand, maintain adequate circuit
voltage levels, and integrate intermittent renewable
energy resources such as wind and solar.
Maui Smart Grid Project developers especially want
to address wind's unpredictability—a major barrier
to its widespread use as a reliable green technology
and one that prompts the state to continue depending
on oil-fueled generators—by developing grid communications
and controls that help Maui Electric coordinate various
resources, such as distributed generation, energy
storage, voltage controls and residential loads.
The Hawaiian government signed an energy agreement
(pdf) with Hawaiian Electric a year ago to increase
renewable energy statewide by 1,100 megawatts by 2030,
with wind contributing 400 megawatts to Oahu's grid
from wind farms on built on Lanai and/or Molokai by
way of an undersea cable developed with the state's
Although wind will be the most significant contributor
to the grid, other renewable sources will contribute,
such as solar photovoltaic farms and geothermal energy.
More novel technologies include one venture involving
a 20-megawatt ocean thermal plant that uses the temperature
difference between the Pacific's warm surface water
and its cooler deep water to drive a heat engine,
Scientific American reported in June. This prototype
would be the first of its kind and cost about $200