Hawaiian Electric partners with Varentec to test island PV integration technology

Hawaii’s strong rooftop solar PV sector is poised to enjoy greater scope for penetration following a the creation of a partnership between local utility Hawaiian Electric Company and grid control technology provider Varentec to test ways to enable more solar on island grids.

The Bill Gates-backed Varentec has supplied its Edge of Network Grid Optimizers and Grid Edge Management System to a pilot project on the island of O’ahu, where Hawaiian Electric Company will assess ways minimize voltage fluctuations on the grid while maintaining a neighbourhood circuit supplied with large amounts of distributed solar generation.

As the number of rooftops with solar PV arrays in Hawaii grows, the local utility is facing increasing integration and stability challenges. Local neighbourhood circuits put under the strain of higher levels of DG solar experience increased voltage instability that affects all consumers. When voltage levels go too high, circuits can trip and thus damage home appliances.

To tackle this challenge, Hawaiian Electric has identified Varentec’s system-level grid control technology as a cost-effective means to providing greater reliability as the rate of solar penetration grows.

"Varentec’s grid edge Volt Var Control technology can be deployed quickly to help solve the rooftop solar integration problem that we are facing," said Hawaiian Electric VP of energy delivery, Colton Ching. "Even though the technology was not primarily designed for this purpose, our innovative engineers are eager to test it to help address our unique solar challenges."

Hawaii’s various islands have acted as progressive technology test beds in recent years where solar and storage is concerned. In March it was announced by Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) that the island of Molokai had been chosen for a pilot program to utilize energy management and storage with the aim being to allow even greater levels of solar PV penetration.-

Of all U.S. states, Hawaii boasts the highest level of DG solar penetration, and thus is a natural ‘canary in the mine’ as the U.S. wrestles with the challenges posed by greater levels of solar electricity feeding its power grids.