Maui Business

Hawaiian Electric Grid Project Receives National Recognition

March 9, 2016, 9:41 AM HST
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Photo courtesy of Living Off Grid.

The Hawaiian Electric Companies have received the Renewable Integration Project of the Year honor at the 26th annual DistribuTECH Conference, the nation’s largest annual meeting focused on electricity transmission and distribution.

The winning project, selected from among almost 100 applicants, is the Gridco Systems In-Line Power RegulatorTM to determine if the new technology can enable the Hawaiian Electric Companies to monitor and control circuit level voltage and help increase the integration of private photovoltaic systems on island grids.

The IPR enables utility system operators monitor two-way power flows of electricity on a neighborhood circuit in real time and actively manage the voltage of service to customers as solar power varies throughout the day.

The thousands of private PV systems cannot be monitored and may impact power quality and reliability for all customers.

Engineers from Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawai‘i Electric Light are working on the project in a team led by Dr. Dora Nakafuji, Hawaiian Electric director of renewable energy planning in the Grid Technologies Department.


Tests are underway in Kāne‘ohe and the heavily PV-saturated island of Moloka‘i; sites are being scouted for Hawai‘i Island.


“We are truly honored by this national recognition of our work from experts in our industry,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric vice president for corporate planning and business development. “We continue to experience tremendous demand for renewables and Hawai‘i is the first state in the nation to aim for a renewable portfolio standard of 100 percent. As we seek innovative solutions toward this goal, we are pursuing collaborations with like-minded industry partners, state and local government, and our communities.

“To achieve our energy goal of 100% renewables by 2045, we’re transforming the way we do business,” Kimura continued. “We are working more closely than ever with others, exploring new technologies, modernizing the grid, and giving our customers options to take control of their electricity use to motivate conservation and provide bill savings.”

Although private rooftop solar plays an essential role in Hawai‘i’s clean energy portfolio, the nation-leading amounts the state has can present challenges, an Hawaiian Electric Companies’ press release explained.


Residential circuits with very high levels of PV put a strain on the grid because they add electricity during times when there is insufficient demand for it, causing a higher voltage than intended to be delivered to customers.

The IPR uses advanced power electronics and progressive system analytics to regulate voltage and other impacts of high PV penetration. As IPR roll-outs continue, the Hawaiian Electric Companies are gaining more insight and developing procedures to incorporate more intelligent distributed technologies. These will become part of standard procedures to help dynamically manage and lessen the impacts from variable renewables. This will help power the grid with visibility and controls to allow integration of even more private rooftop solar generation than was previously possible.

In another national recognition of innovation, Hawaiian Electric Company was recently awarded $2.4 million from the US Department of Energy SunShot Initiative as a part of the Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV (SHINES) program.

Teaming with key technology system integrators (Siemens, Alstom, DNV GL, In2lytics/Referentia Systems), renewable forecasters (AWS Truepower) and new intelligent power-grid device manufactures (Gridco, Stem, Apparent), the project will focus on seamlessly connecting information and controls for local energy resources to support a more plug-and-play power grid.

The award is one of six nationally, part of a total $18.3 million in DOE clean energy research awards under this program.

Hawaiian Electric, in collaboration with leading industry and technology partners, will jointly match the federal funds, providing $2.4 million towards the award-winning demonstration projects designed to find ways to sustainably increase private solar energy and storage on local grids.

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