Hawaii Integrates Small-scale Renewables by Teresa Hansen, editor in chief, and Kristen Wright, senior editor
|Kaheawa Wind Power, Maui|
Overlooking warm, Pacific waters 2,500 miles from anywhere, the Aloha State is working to shed its less marketable, unofficial title: the most fossil fuel-dependent state. Renewable generation will help Hawaii keep a substantial amount of the $4 billion it spends annually to import crude oil; refine it into gasoline, jet and marine fuel; and generate electricity with the residue, the Hawaii State Energy Office reports.
Hawaii set a renewable portfolio goal in 2001. In 2004, then-Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, set the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 20 percent renewable generation by 2020. In 2009, she doubled it. Lingle’s signing of HB 1464 increased Hawaii’s RPS to 40 percent by 2030. One of the most aggressive RPS in the nation is the result of a 2008 agreement signed by Lingle; the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; the state consumer advocate; and Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO) as part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative. Under the agreement, the utilities also committed to add new energy efficiency goals, implement a feed-in tariff to fast-track renewable projects and move to a smart grid with advance metering.
To accomplish Hawaii’s energy goals, the utilities needed a rate structure that encouraged clean energy. HECO and the Hawaii Division of Consumer Advocacy in 2008 submitted a joint proposal for decoupling to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC). In 2010, the PUC approved a method that decoupled electric revenues from the kilowatt-hours sold.
HECO President and CEO Richard “Dick” Rosenblum considers decoupling an important step in carrying out Hawaii’s energy policy.
“Ensuring the right regulatory model is in place will help move Hawaii toward a clean energy future that will benefit customers and our economy, protect the environment, increase our energy security and allow the utility to better provide the services and support we need to get there,” he said in a statement.
Rosenblum spoke more about Hawaii’s transition to clean energy during the Edison Electric Institute Annual Convention in June. He emphasized the economic toll of Hawaii’s fossil fuel dependence.
“In 2008 when oil went to $147 a barrel, oil was drawing 20 percent from the economy, so we set a goal to reduce fossil fuel use by 70 percent by 2020,” Rosenblum said. “Hawaiian Electric sales peaked in 2007 and have been decreasing ever since.”
HECO and its subsidiaries, Maui Electric Co. Ltd. (MECO) and Hawaii Electric Light Co. Inc. (HELCO), serve 95 percent of the state’s 1.2 million residents on five islands: Oahu, Maui, the Big Island, Lanai and Molokai.
In 2011, HECO’s renewable sales reached 12 percent and included wind, solar, waste-to-energy, geothermal, hydro and biofuel sources. A 2 percent growth in renewable sales over 2011 means the utility is on target to reach its next mandate: 15 percent renewables by 2015, he said.
The Big Island, Rosenblum said, averages some 37 percent of generation from renewables, and when things line up just right, renewable generation reaches as high as 68 percent. The island experiences many hours of 50 percent renewable generation, he said.
Operational Renewable projects
Hawaiian projects are coming online to fulfill the state’s clean energy requirements. As of early 2012, renewable energy projects in service, under construction, awaiting approval or in negotiations totaled more than 1,000 MW. HECO has some 2,500 MW from utility generation and independent power producers. The following are some of Hawaii’s operational renewable projects, according to the Hawaii State Energy Office.
Wind. Phase II of Maui’s Kaheawa Wind Power (KWP) adds 21 MW of renewable energy and battery storage to the 30-MW capacity of KWP Phase I, which has been operating above Maalaea since 2006 as the largest commercial wind farm in Hawaii. It has displaced more than 900,000 barrels of oil. KWP I and II have capacity to provide 10 to 15 percent of Maui’s electricity needs-enough to power 20,000 homes.
Hydro. The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) draws power from eight hydro facilities across the island. While new hydro is capital-intensive, it is the lowest cost of power: 25 percent cheaper than solar and some 30 percent cheaper than current fossil fuel generation.
Solar. By the end of 2011, more than 10,000 customer-sited photovoltaic (PV) systems on Oahu, the Big Island and in Maui County totaled more than 78 MW of solar capacity. And on Lanai, the La Ola solar farm provides 1.2 MW of generation, which is 30 percent of the island’s daily peak electricity demand and 10 percent of its annual electricity needs. The solar farm covers more than 10 acres and consists of 7,400 solar panels. In 2010, La Ola incorporated a custom utility-grade energy storage system. Hawaii ranks second in the nation for installed solar watts per person.
Geothermal. The expansion of the Big Island’s Puna Geothermal Venture’s (PGV’s) 30-MW facility adds 8 MW of dispatchable power to HELCO’s grid. PGV supplies 30 percent of the state’s overall renewable energy generation portfolio and 20 percent of the electricity used on the Big Island. PGV is the state’s only commercial, baseload, indigenous power source and Hawaii’s only geothermal energy producer.
Biomass. Big Island Carbon transforms macadamia nut shells discarded by Big Island growers into granulated, activated carbon used for air, water and chemical purification. The shells also can be converted into biofuels and mixed with diesel to power the company’s facility on 4 acres owned by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
Net metering, DG
A few years ago, Rosenblum and others saw Hawaii’s distribution system as a proprietary network, but that’s not the case anymore with distributed generation (DG), he said.
Six percent of HECO’s renewable generation is the result of DG-mostly rooftop solar PV-and that percentage has doubled every year, Rosenblum said.
HECO, with PUC approval, limits the amount of PV generating capacity that can be connected to any of the 465 circuits on its Oahu grid. When the PV amount on a circuit reaches the IEEE-recommended threshold of 15 percent of total capacity, HECO requires those seeking to install a system to perform an interconnection study. The 15 percent threshold has been reached or surpassed on 11 Oahu circuits, 18 Big Island circuits and three Maui circuits, according to HECO.
Although DG introduces more renewables to Hawaii’s grid, it also introduces serious safety issues. For example, Rosenblum said, HECO no longer knows whether a downed wire is electrified because distributed generators might remain connected.
“No question, it gets harder and more complex to run the grid with more distributed resources, but we’re doing it,” he said.
“We underestimate how smart we are. We electrified the country; we will figure it out. We always have, and that’s our job.”