Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Smart Grid Aims To Connect Hawaii’s Islands

An image from GE's smart grid spot during Sunday's Super Bowl.
When inspiration fails, we do the logical thing and cockroach off someone else’s blog. After only a little searching today we found the GE Global Research Blog and a piece posted just yesterday by Devon Manz.

Manz is an engineer working on a smart grid concept applicable for the Hawaiian Islands. (We thought he looked familiar and confirmed it at the list of attendees of last April’s Blue Planet Summit.)

Manz’s post nicely states the problem facing renewable energy advocates in Hawaii: The islands are just that – standalone piles of rock in the middle of the Pacific not connected with one another by an electric grid.

Most of the renewable energy development potential (excluding ocean thermal energy conversion -- OTEC; we’ll get to that later) is on the “neighbor islands,” but most of the load is on the capital island of Oahu. What to do?

The unsurprising solution is to connect the islands with undersea cables. The distances and depths are not all that remarkable, with the possible exception of the 6100-foot-deep Alenuihaha Channel between Maui and the Big Island.  (Jan TenBruggencate of the Raising Islands blog checks in to note that the Kaieiewaho Channel between Kauai and Oahu drops to more than 11,000 feet.  You're right, Jan, but not many are pushing to go to Kauai these days -- undersea or on top of it!)

With up to 500 MW of wind energy planned for Molokai and Lanai and only minimal loads on those islands, a smart grid will be needed to connect those intermittent renewable energy sources with the load on Oahu. Manz’s piece documents the challenge and prospects for success that will enable Hawaii to maximize renewable energy contributions in the state.

About OTEC

The graphic on the GE blog doesn’t mention future contributions from this ocean energy technology to meet Oahu’s power requirements. Without an OTEC plant even under construction here and only a signed agreement to build one, it’s pretty early to make representations about the technology’s potential to provide power, firm or otherwise. For the record, however, Hawaiian Electric’s integrated resource planning has 200 MW reserved for OTEC, and its officers have been unambiguous about their willingness to embrace ocean energy and its potential to deliver non-intermittent baseload power.

1 comment:

Summer said...

Who will train the workers involved in this project? And does this mean a possible shortage in trained workers?