The high cost of electricity in Hawai‘i, resulting from the geographic isolations of the islands’ electricity grids and widespread use of petroleum to generate electricity, has led to the rapid growth of renewable generation on all the islands. This isolation make Hawai‘i’s electricity grids particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of these intermittent renewable energy sources, but also an ideal test bed for solutions. HNEI’s work in this area covers research, development, testing, and evaluation of the integration of renewable energy in utility grids and it supports U.S. Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) toward the advancement of marine energy in the U.S.
Grid System Analysis
The integration of variable renewable energy into a utility grid system is a key component of moving toward a more sustainable future. To support this effort, HNEI has produced a broad set of studies that evaluate and test the impacts of incorporation of solar and wind energy, the potential of storage options, the effect of stability and reliability on the grid, and the challenges of implementation.
Grid Technology: Development and Demonstration
HNEI is conducting research, development and demonstration of new technologies to increase renewable energy integration onto the grid and assist in increasing controllability and grid stability. Efforts include a wide range of testing and demonstration projects for smart and micro grid systems, validation of control algorithms, use of a battery energy storage system, and developing solar forecasting methods.
HNEI has a long history of research and development in ocean energy and resources technology, primarily in wave energy and in Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). Emerging ocean energy technologies have the potential to contribute significantly to Hawai‘i’s and the nation’s future energy mix. HNEI supports the Navy’s development of the nation’s first grid connected wave energy test site (WETS) at Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i, to conduct independent analysis for wave energy conversion device systems performance, and associated environmental monitoring. At present, OTEC-related research is primarily carried out through our relationship with Makai Ocean Engineering at the active OTEC research facility at NELHA on Hawai‘i Island.
HNEI has supported the Navy’s development of the nation’s first grid connected wave energy test site (WETS) at Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i since 2009. In 2015, the full 3-berth site was completed, and it has hosted multiple deployments of wave energy converters (WECs) – shown below. HNEI provides performance analysis, numerical modeling of devices and moorings, wave measurement and forecasting, environmental monitoring (primarily acoustics), and logistics support to the Navy and the companies deploying at WETS. Navy funds are also being directed toward graduate student research of relevance to Navy wave energy interests.
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC)
HNEI conducts OTEC thermal gradient resource assessments, outflow plume modeling, and power plant demonstration studies of OTEC power plants for both U.S. Navy and commercial applications. HNEI is supporting Makai Ocean Engineering in developing cost-effective heat exchanger designs and long-term corrosion testing of the aluminum materials at an OTEC demonstration facility, located at the Natural Energy Laboratory Hawai‘i Authority on Hawai‘i Island.