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Big Island Business Report 2014

(page 8 of 8)

Photo: Courtesy of Hawaii Forest & Trail

The Energy Mystery

How Hawaii Island became a leader in solving the case of integrating nontraditional power sources.

Going green has been the rage in recent years, with demand for alternate energy skyrocketing to all-time highs. If we are becoming less dependent on traditional sources of energy and capable of harnessing sun or wind technology, for example, then we should all do it, right? If only it were that simple.

The problem is, electric grids were not built to handle continuous streams of unlimited energy influx that outweigh demand.

“An electric grid is finite,” says Marco Mangelsdorf, president of Pro Vision Solar Inc. “If you have a finite grid, you can only have a finite amount of power feeding into that grid.”

When this situation occurs, voltages go up beyond where they should, and equipment can sustain damages. Ultimately, this results in power loss for others. Because Hawaii Island is an isolated grid, it cannot “share” the extra power created to offset that balance of supply and demand.

“We can’t export power, even between the Islands,” says Lisa Dangelmaier, manager of production operations and systems planning at HELCO (Hawaiian Electric Light Co.). “It’s not like the Mainland where you could essentially plug into the neighboring state.”

The surge of demand for solar energy over the past couple of years has sped up the problem to the point where potential photovoltaic (PV) customers have had to wait for system installation.

“It’s not that we are against connecting PV,” says Jay Ignacio, HELCO president. “It’s that we have a duty to protect all customers. In this situation, with too much energy coming in and not enough use, we risk sudden disconnection of power to others.”

Looking into the problem, the HELCO team of researchers, led by Dangelmaier, looked around the globe for answers. What they found was that others were actually looking back at Hawaii Island as a model for what to do.

What HELCO is doing now is investing the time and resources to solve the problem in a way that will work for everyone involved.

“We have changed the controls on each individual inverter,” Ignacio says. “We’ve also created our own PV estimating system to estimate the amount of PV generation so that we can help to balance production with demand.”

The HELCO team is also looking into battery storage and even creating bench tests that mimic four to five PV systems to see how they can balance with a model load.

“Our engineers are pretty innovative,” Ignacio says. “Our goal is to get a technical solution that will allow people to connect. We want to get a solution in place, policy adopted and approved by our regulators by the middle of this year. That’s our desire.”  

The Rundown

  • HELCO engineers have always been ahead of the innovation game. They contributed to the development of the first relay devices for the entire industry, which replace the discs in electrical monitoring with microprocessors. The modern relays provide protection to the grid by communicating with the power system control room.
  • Today, Hawaii Island has more than 37 megawatts of distributed solar generation installed – almost double the amount of the previous year.
  • The reason HELCO cannot abandon other forms of energy and dedicate more space on the grid to solar is because solar, like wind energy, is non-firm power. The sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow 24 hours per day. If too much space is allocated to these types of energy, they run the risk of jeopardizing power.

Percentage of adults who are HI-5 recyclers (2009)

Hawaii Island: 93%
Honolulu: 78%
Kauai: 85%
Maui: 84.2%

Percentage of total energy consumption handled by forms of renewable energy (2009)

Hawaii Island: 14.4%
Honolulu: 3%
Kauai: 10.0%
Maui: 19.3%

Energy consumption in million BTUs per person(2009)

Hawaii Island: 200
Honolulu: 262
Kauai: 223
Maui: 312

Percentage of adults without health insurance (2009)

Hawaii Island: 9.1%
Honolulu: 6%
Hawaii State: 6.8%
United States: 17.8%

Percentage of families with children under 18 who say they have someone in the community they can rely on (2009)

Hawaii Island: 91.4%
Honolulu: 88.1%
Kauai: 92.7%
Maui: 89.9%

Percentage of owners with a mortgage who spend 30% or more of household income on selected monthly owner costs (2009)

Hawaii Island: 42.3%
Honolulu: 42.8%
Maui: 50.9%

Spotlight On: ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii

In the spring of 2015, the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, along with Indigenous Education Institute, will be hosting a two-day Indigenous Worldviews in Informal Science Education (I-WISE) conference in Hilo. I-WISE aims to facilitate research on the consolidation of indigenous and Western science in relation to informal science. The conference gathers 60 participants from science centers around the world, including educators and indigenous youth. The participants will discuss their research and theories, as well as formulate a research agenda that will be shared with the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) community. The I-WISE conference at ‘Imiloa will include keynotes, workshops, and discussion groups. The results will be presented at a meeting in Washington, DC, as well as in other relevant conferences and publications.

Spotlight On: Hawaii Electric Light Company

In 2013, Hawaii Electric Light Company, a lead innovator in clean energy on Hawaii Island, was named one of the “Top 50 Green Fleets” in the nation by Heavy Duty Trucking magazine. HELCO has 26 hybrids, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and electric vehicles in their fleet. As of 2006, all of their diesel vehicles, which are approximately half of their fleet, use 20 percent biodiesel fuel, with a few that run on 100 percent biodiesel. Along with having the highest percentage of renewable power sources in the country, the company also ensures that the ecological footprint of their vehicles is small, and provides an inspirational model for customers. HELCO is working towards a sustainable, clean energy future for Hawaii Island and the whole state.

Spotlight On: Big Island Candies

Big Island Candies, a gourmet confectioner based in Hilo, has recently expanded to include a permanent location at the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu’s competitive market. During the past two years, the famous creator of chocolate-covered treats had operated seasonal stores on Oahu, while continuing to maintain its exclusivity. The new store offers some of the company’s most popular products and features a different product each month from Hilo. Big Island Candies is known for using only the finest ingredients, such as locally grown macadamia nuts, 100 percent Kona Coffee, and high-grade chocolate. The company has received numerous awards and recognition for their innovation and continues to demonstrate their creativity: Big Island Candies will soon introduce a new packaging design for their delicious shortbread cookies.


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