The US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has signed a memorandum of understanding with UPC Wind to establish a remote research affiliate partner site at UPC Wind’s Kaheawa wind farm in Maui. It is the first such partner site for NREL’s wind technology program outside its base in Colorado. Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle announced the collaborative public-private partnership to establish a wind technology program on March 31 in Honolulu.

This latest partnership expands on the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative between the state of Hawaii and the U.S. Department of Energy that started in January 2008 and aims to have 70 percent of Hawaii’s energy come from clean, renewable sources by 2030.

The Maui partner site will conduct research and development on advanced wind energy technologies, including operational and control studies, energy storage options and integration of renewable electricity into existing grids. The research’s goal is to help maximize the integration of wind into Hawaii’s utility system, so this renewable resource can compete with traditional energy sources, providing a clean, renewable alternative for Hawaii’s and the nation’s energy needs.

“The establishment of a partner site of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on Maui recognizes our islands’ abundant renewable resources, and the advancements we are making to transform Hawaii into one of the world’s first economies based primarily on clean energy resources,” Lingle said. “This partnership will provide Hawaii with invaluable technical assistance, access to leading-edge research, and relationships with additional national partners as we seek to develop innovative approaches to increase our energy independence and reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels.”

And wind energy is just one of many renewable resources and technologies being built into the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.

“For Hawaii to achieve the bold 70 percent clean-energy target in one generation, partnerships between the public and private sectors; among federal, state and local government entities; and between research institutions and industry will be critical,” Lingle said. “It will require a fundamental transformation in how Hawaii generates, transmits and uses energy.”

The four Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative technical working groups focusing on this transformation have recently completed their first round of work. This work focused on identifying barriers to the rapid adoption of clean energy in areas of electricity generation; transmission and distribution; end-user efficiency; and transportation, including biofuels and advanced transportation technologies. As experts in the electricity industry, electrical contractors can capitalize on the change Hawaii is undertaking.