HNEI research labs are augmented by field testing and demonstration sites to support core R&D along with renewable energy system integration. Because Technical Validation & Implementation has become an essential part of HNEI’s mission, faculty and staff work closely with partners to bring research results and efficient end use technologies through the stages of development, demonstration and deployment into service.

Research facilities include:

Alternative Fuels

Biochemical Engineering Laboratory

The Biochemical Engineering Laboratory specializes in research involving low-energy low-chemical high rate wastewater treatments systems with applications in biogas production and water reuse.

Biomass and Fuels Processing Laboratory

A wide variety of research is underway in the Biomass and Fuels Processing Laboratory, including activities in biomass resource assessment, thermochemical conversion of biomass, evaluation of energy conversion and utilization processes, and reforming of transition fuels for the hydrogen economy.

Bioprocessing Laboratory

The research facilities in Bioprocessing lab are dedicated to feedstock preparation, microbial fermentation, and products recovery. The lab is equipped with various instruments for chemical and physical analysis.

Methane Hydrates Research Laboratory (MHRL)

The MHRL is part of the Ocean Resources and Applications Laboratory, with a long-term goal to develop environmentally benign technologies to utilize the enormous energy potential of methane hydrate deposits.


Grid Integration

HNEI conducts field trials and on-site technical validation and implementation specific to the needs of each project. See Grid Integration projects for more information.


Fuel Cell and Battery Technology

Hawaii Sustainable Energy Research Facility (HiSERF)

Formally known as the Hawaii Fuel Cell Test Facility, HiSERF’s mission is to accelerate acceptance and deployment of fuel cells for commercial and military applications, battery energy storage and other grid enabling technologies.

Electrochemical Power Systems Laboratory (EPSL)

The EPSL conducts R&D on battery and other electrochemical power systems. EPSL work ranges from battery prototyping, to the testing of large battery modules and the modeling of deployed battery systems.


Renewable Power Generation

HNEI conducts on-site technical validation and demonstration projects across Hawaii. See Renewable Power Generation section more information.

Thin Films Laboratory

The Thin Films Laboratory at HNEI develops novel coating strategies for renewable energy conversion, including photovoltaics and Solar Fuels applications. The laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art deposition vacuum chambers and instrumentation to integrate and test various classes of materials, including semiconducting, catalytic and corrosion resistant layers. The team also collaborates with local and national institutions to predict and characterize the behavior of thin films and nano-structures at the atomistic level.


Energy Efficiency

Energy Efficiency projects encompass technology and building system design, monitoring and testing. (See Energy Efficiency projects for more information.)



Other locations where HNEI conducts or supports research include:

Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH)

A U.S. Marine Corps facility, MCBH, currently houses HNEI-supported projects involving hydrogen fueling stations and wave energy testing.  HNEI supports research involving the technical analysis of the fueling station designed to support fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and the environmental feasibility of the technology deployed at Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) located on the base.


The Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA)

NELHA is a state-owned agency that operates a unique and innovative ocean science and technology park in Kailua-Kona on the island of Hawaii.  Assets include a dual-temperature seawater system that is the only one of its kind in the world, and a hydrogen production and dispensing station that supports operations of fuel cell electric buses used in public transportation.

About HNEI


The Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) was created in 1974 to stimulate the development of natural energy resources and reduce fossil fuel use in Hawaii.  Through multidisciplinary research and education and public-private partnerships, HNEI has emerged as a leader for sustainable energy deployment and demonstration projects in Hawaii.

In 2007, the Hawaii Legislature established HNEI in state law with an expanded mandate to coordinate with state and federal agencies, and demonstrate and deploy energy efficiency and peak demand reduction technologies.  The law also created the Energy Systems Development Special Fund which receives a portion of the State tax on imported fossil fuels, to match funds from federal and private sources, and to award contracts or grants for developing and deploying renewable energy technologies. (HRS Secs. 304A-1891-1894 and Sec. 304A-2169.1)

HNEI seeks alliances to support transitions to reliable and affordable clean energy while enhancing the benefits afforded to residents of Hawaii and beyond.  These have included close working relationships with industry and governmental entities at every level, such as federal funding agencies, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, Hawaii State Energy Office, the Hawaii Legislature, members of Hawaii’s Congressional delegation, and governments in the Asia-Pacific region. By engaging a wide range of disciplines and stakeholders, HNEI is able to tackle the urgent and complex clean energy needs of our State, the nation, and the global communities in which we serve.



HNEI State Institutional Support

A core part of HNEI’s mission is to help guide Hawaii through its clean energy transformation by focusing on cost effective and practical solutions to help deliver commercially viable renewable energy for Hawaii and the world. Hawaii’s energy transformation is driven by bold state policies that include a mandate for 100% renewable electricity, and carbon neutrality by 2045.  (HRS Secs. 269-92 & 225P-5)

To accomplish this mission, HNEI integrates analysis, research, engineering, economics, and science to develop and demonstrate technologies, strategies, and policies that will significantly impact energy transformation initiatives in Hawaii and beyond.

In Hawaii, HNEI closely collaborates with the State Energy Office and the Public Utilities Commission to support state energy policy and Hawaii’s energy transformation.  We provide independent and impartial research, analysis, demonstration and testing to help inform critical decisions made by regulators, legislators, utilities, and other energy stakeholders.



HNEI’s activities can be grouped into four core functions:HNEI Functions

  • Research & Development
  • Testing & Evaluation
  • Modeling & Validation
  • Education & Training


HNEI core functions are inter-related and overlap by design to maximize collaboration and leverage resources to help accelerate the State’s energy transformation.

Research & Development (R&D)

As an Organized Research Unit within the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH), HNEI has a strong core research team consisting of multidisciplinary faculty and staff with a wide range of backgrounds.  HNEI also works closely with other units on campus, including the School of Ocean & Earth Science & Technology (SOEST), College of Engineering, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, and College of Social Sciences.  This critical mass allows HNEI to conduct increasingly comprehensive and complex research.   With a strategic focus on remaining flexible to support the dynamic needs of renewable energy development, HNEI’s direction continues to evolve.

Modeling & Validation

HNEI conducts and supports analysis and modeling of forward looking scenarios for renewable energy generation, grid improvements, and storage.  These analyses are critical to identifying optimal and realistic pathways to meet energy transition objectives such as those of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.  Results from these studies guide energy policy and utility planning and help identify important validation projects in areas such as biofuels, grid integration, and hydrogen.

Testing & Evaluation

Moving R&D discovery from UH labs to market is an important aspect of HNEI’s testing and evaluation mission.  HNEI faculty and staff have been successful in transferring patented HNEI technology in a variety of areas to demonstration scale, and even commercial implementation. 

Additionally, there are many emerging technologies of potential significance to Hawaii’s energy needs developed elsewhere.  We identify and bring to Hawaii technologies of interest, for testing and assessment for use in Hawaii.  These activities are frequently guided by our analysis and modeling efforts and supported by our R&D activities.  These projects usually involve industrial partnerships and often include cost share.  A good example is the ongoing effort to evaluate emerging grid scale battery energy storage technology as a solution to both transmission and distribution level issues associated with high penetration of intermittent renewable energy technologies. 

Education & Training

While HNEI does not have its own academic program as a research institute, its active partnerships with other departments within the university greatly enhance HNEI’s effectiveness and reach.  Faculty members develop and present courses for academic units in SOEST, the College of Engineering, and the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.  HNEI faculty support and supervise graduate students and post docs across these departments.  Additionally, HNEI’s state-of-the-art research facilities are used by UH research collaborators.  HNEI also currently provides funding to Maui Community College, Kauai Community College and the College of Engineering (UH Manoa) to support curricula and workforce development.  Other funded projects include the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship and E-Business (PACE), which supports several fellowships at the UH College of Business to develop a workforce cross-trained in the business, legal and technical aspects of future energy systems.  HNEI also supports the Asia-Pacific Technology and Education Partnership (APTEP), funded by the Office of Navy Research (ONR).


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