How a Modern Grid Helps Make Room for More Renewables

July 25, 2017

The power grids that serve our islands were originally designed for one job: to deliver electricity to customers from a handful of big power plants. Those grids didn’t have to be flexible or adaptable or transparent — they just had to be strong and reliable.

Today, there are “power plants” on nearly every circuit, nearly 80,000 privately owned rooftop solar systems that push electricity onto the grid for delivery to other customers.

The steady, one-way flow of electricity that was the norm for more than a century is now a dynamic, two-way stream of power, shifting back and forth between the customer and the utility.

Without real-time data, visibility and control, operators can only estimate how much power these systems are feeding into the grid; they can’t manage it and they have no way of “seeing” into circuits to identify and avert situations that can affect the reliable delivery of power to customers.

That’s one of the reasons why each private rooftop solar system requires a review and analysis by our engineers: we need to know that our grid is able to handle it, especially in areas where rooftop solar is “saturated” — where there are many individual systems already in place, and the danger of too much power being fed back into the grid is higher.

By building sensors and automation into the grid, we can more than triple the amount of private rooftop solar, make use of rapidly evolving products — including storage and advanced inverters — and incorporate a vast array of sophisticated energy management tools that give customers more choices.

For safety and reliability reasons, the grid we have is not the grid we need for incorporating more renewable energy.

A modernized grid would:

· Enable two-way power flow to fully leverage customer resources

· Support customer choice and options for energy management

· Provide resilient and reliable energy

· Provide a flexible platform that supports new products and services

· Enable the development of “smart” cities and communities

We submitted a draft grid modernization plan to the Public Utilities Commission with input from key stakeholders and are requesting comments from the public. It’s time to modernize our electrical grid to prepare Hawaii for the future of 100% renewables.

Read our draft plan to modernize the electrical grid here.