Solar Plus Storage Helps Build Virtual Power Plant on Hawaiian Islands

An image of solar panels absorbing sunlight.

In the pursuit of renewable energy, states with the most abundant resources have often shown the greatest tendencies toward innovation. Hawaii has embraced one of its most plentiful resources with a proposal that will create a virtual power plant (VPP) on three of the islands.

The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC), Honolulu, recently approved a $25 million contract between the state's utility, Hawaiian Electric, also based in Honolulu, and a Southern California-based energy storage provider, Swell Energy, Inc.

The contract calls for Swell to deliver “various grid services.” More specifically, the company will deploy behind-the-meter solar-powered home batteries. The technology will go to approximately 6,000 residential customers on the islands. Connecting the residential systems will create “an aggregated network of distributed energy.” The Hawaiian Electric VPP will benefit customers on the islands of Oahu, Maui and Hawaii.

Swell says the project will “set a new standard for virtual power plants.” The project will deliver more than 25 megawatts (MW) of solar power, 80 MW of batteries and 100 MW-hours of stored energy.

Hawaiian Electric says the project will help address the needs of its “small, stand-alone grids,” which have a high level of renewable generation and are “sensitive to supply and demand imbalances.”

The system has many potential benefits. It will lower bills for participating customers. It will also help the utility provide capacity and frequency response on all three islands. The system will relieve the grid of excess power during those times of the day when the sun is at its brightest and solar generation exceeds demands. The battery systems can also absorb excess wind power. This distributed storage of excess power will help the utility reduce peak demand and balance the grid at all times.

The program is available to existing solar customers and those who want to install new solar systems.

About the Author

Rick Laezman

Freelance Writer

Rick Laezman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who has been covering renewable power for more than 10 years. He may be reached at richardlaezman@msn.com.

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