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Andrew Burger headshot

Hawaiian Electric to Retool with Solar, Smart Grid and Energy Storage


Distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems, along with smart grid and energy storage capacity, will play a much larger role in Hawaii's energy future if a recently proposed plan comes to fruition.

Pursuing a goal to achieve the highest level of renewable energy use in the U.S., Hawaiian Electric Co. proposes to nearly triple the amount of distributed solar power capacity coursing through its grid by 2030, as well as install smart grid and energy storage systems.

Almost completely reliant on fossil fuel imports for energy generation, electricity costs – as well associated costs in terms of human and environmental health and safety impacts – in Hawaii are roughly twice that of any other U.S. state. That's changing for the better, however, as Hawaiians embrace renewable energy technology, enhance energy efficiency and try to dial down energy usage.

Hawaiian Electric's plan sets a goal of sourcing 65 percent of electricity supply from renewable sources by 2030. Realizing this goal would drastically reduce Hawaii's dependence on fossil fuel imports, greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution associated with fossil fuel use. In addition, Hawaiian Electric expects customers' electric bills would be reduced by 20 percent.

At the forefront of clean energy change

The number of solar PV systems installed in Hawaii grew 40 percent in 2013-- despite issues with interconnecting residential PV systems with Hawaiian Electric grids slowing down the pace of adoption. A total of 17,609 solar PV systems were installed in Hawaii last year with a total generating capacity of 129 megawatts (MW).

Distributed solar power generation capacity is expected to triple as a result of Hawaiian Electric's proposed plan. State-of-the-art electric systems on Oahu, in Maui County and on Hawaii Island are to serve as the foundation of the utility's renewable energy, smart grid and energy storage initiatives.

Complimenting the growing integration of distributed solar and energy storage systems, Hawaiian Electric also plans to install complete smart grid systems in Maui County and on Hawaii Island by year-end 2017 and on Oahu by year-end 2018.

That's going to give customers the flexibility to manage their own energy use, as well as enhance grid reliability and facilitate the integration of renewable electricity supply, highlighted Shelee Kimura, vice president of corporate planning and business development for Hawaiian Electric:

“Our energy environment is changing rapidly and we must change with it to meet our customers’ evolving needs. These plans are about delivering services that our customers value. That means lower costs, better protection of our environment, and more options to lower their energy costs, including rooftop solar.”

Adding energy storage capacity is another core aspect of Hawaiian Electric's ambitious strategic plan. As the utility explains in a press release:

“Energy storage systems, including batteries, will increase the ability to add renewables by addressing potential disruptions on electric grids caused by variable solar and wind power. Hawaiian Electric is evaluating proposals for energy storage projects on Oahu to be in service by early 2017. Energy storage projects are also in the works for Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Hawaii Island."

*Image credits: 1) RevoluSun; 2) SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association); 3) Pacific Resource Partnership, Sierra Club of Hawaii

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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