Maui Business

Kihei/Wailea Site of Japan-U.S. Electric Vehicle Smart Grid Demonstration Project

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Photo Credit : sunwaytuner.comBy Sonia Isotov

Beginning in 2012, energy partners from the United States and Japan will collaborate on a multimillion dollar smart grid demonstration project in neighborhoods in the Kihei and Wailea areas.

The project will include installation of smart controls at the neighborhood level and integrate variable renewable energy resources, such as solar and wind power. The intention is to prepare the electric system ahead of electric vehicle use island-wide.

The organizations partnering on the project include: the U.S. Department of Energy; the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT); the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawaii; Hawaiian Electric Company; Maui Electric Company; and Japan-based New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) (an entity under the government of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry).


NEDO recently selected six Japanese companies that will work with the U.S. project partners to develop and install smart grid technologies on Maui. NEDO will provide approximately $37 million to support the project (3 billion yen). The companies selected by NEDO include: Hitachi, Ltd.; Hewlett-Packard Japan, Ltd.; Mizuho Corporate Bank, Ltd.; Sharp Corporation; JFE Engineering Corporation; and Cyber Defense Institute, Inc.

“With its high levels of variable renewable energy, Maui is a perfect location to test these Smart Grid technologies. 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,” said Richard Rocheleau, Director of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawaii, in a statement released yesterday by the Hawaiian Electric Company.

“Like Hawaii, Japan is looking for ways to better use clean energy on smaller electric systems that serve individual islands.  By pooling our resources and our expertise, we can develop solutions that will help significantly increase our use of clean energy sources,” added Robbie Alm, Hawaiian Electric executive vice president.


“A smarter electric grid is a promising solution to one of the biggest challenges in deploying more renewable energy in Hawaii.  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, DBEDT’s Energy Office.

In addition, to helping prepare the Maui electric grid for widespread adoption of electric vehicles, the project will use an advanced charging management system to connect Maui Electric Company system controls with charging stations island-wide, allowing Maui Electric to actively manage electric vehicle charging to balance generation and load.  With this advanced system, Maui Electric can make better use of the wind and solar power on the island.

Installation of the smart grid technology is expected to begin in late 2012, with the project becoming operational in 2013. The demonstration project is scheduled to run from 2013-2015.


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, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan, State of Hawaii and Prefecture of Okinawa in June 2010.

The Hawaii-Okinawa partnership is intended to foster the development of clean and energy efficient technologies needed to solve global energy security and climate change challenges. Japan and the United States designated Hawaii and Okinawa as the representatives for this groundbreaking partnership due to their demonstrated leadership and experience in clean energy and energy efficiency.

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