Hawaii Encourages Energy Storage Development and Microgrid Technologies

In an attempt to establish robust microgrids with energy storage technologies, Hawaii is developing a test bed for developers.
Published: Wed 26 Feb 2014

The State of Hawaii, Hawaii County and the Hawaii Electric Light Co are sharing resources in order to attract companies that are interested in testing and evaluating pre-commercial energy storage units.

For this purpose, the Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology (HOST) Park was developed. The Park, a US$100 million outdoor demonstration site is located in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island. The Park is managed by the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) and will be host to emerging energy storage technologies for ocean and solar energy, algae biofuels and sea-based food technologies. The aim of the Park is to encourage innovation and economic growth in the region.

HOST is a unique model of sustainable development that allows companies to run their facilities on solar, employ cold deep seawater to cool buildings, and hold meetings at the LEED-Platinum Gateway building. HOST is working towards the development of a micro-grid on a campus which will become a test bed for energy storage technologies. The infrastructure has been created to enable companies to do ‘real world’ grid-connected standardized testing and validation of energy storage devices. The site aims to offer low-cost testing sites for up to 30 KW of power, power sensors and real-time monitoring of energy storage devices-at no additional cost.

Renewable plans

Currently, leaders of Hawaii’s energy and environmental committees hope to pass a law requiring the state to derive 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2050. The current goal is 40% renewable energy by 2030. For this reason, robust energy storage solutions are required. In addition to this, the State’s utility realizes that it has a major role to play in microgrids and energy storage as an increasing number of their customers are leaving the grid to generate their own power. In our article, Distributed Generation-Utility’s Main Revenue, we discussed why the utility must start developing a new business model by incorporating numerous technological and service opportunities available on the market so that it can avoid becoming irrelevant in the electric industry.

Energy storage opportunities

Jay Ignacio, President of Hawaii Electric Light, says that a huge opportunity exists in the field of energy storage to provide clean energy, improve reliability and eventually reduce the costs of energy for consumers. Gregory Barbour, Executive Director of NELHA, says that while the costs of clean energy generation have reduced significantly over the years, cost-effective energy storage solutions are still lacking and is the ‘missing link’. He adds that it is one of the most complex elements in the design and functionality of a clean energy microgrid.

He explains, “Our mission is to provide secure, clean energy for Hawaii. There are great opportunities in energy storage to increase clean energy, support reliability and ultimately lower costs for customers.”

Energy storage is a rapidly evolving market and offers significant potential for future growth as microgrids require higher degrees of reliability and power quality and sophisticated generation-load balancing. The global market for energy storage systems for wind and solar power is estimated to grow from less than US$150 million in 2013 to US$10.3 billion by 2023 with a projected 21.8GW of capacity.

We recently reported in our article California’s Energy Storage Mandate-Will Others Follow? that islands are more prone to adopting energy storage solutions at a faster rate if they want to avoid the high costs of importing natural gas and oil resources.

The U.S. Navy recently invested US$30 million in another innovative program in Hawaii, the Clean Energy Accelerator. This program offers seed funding of US$30,000 to US$100,000 to entrepreneurs working on projects related to renewable energy technologies, including transportation.