The Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) is actively involved with several issues of energy storage. One important aspect relates to the increased utilization of renewable resources by electric utilities in the State of Hawaii. Some of these resources (such as solar and wind energy) are intermittent, and this can present a problem of storing the energy generated when it is not needed, so that it can subsequently be used when it is needed. Among the possible options for storing such energy, HNEI is working with the use of: 1) batteries for energy storage, and 2) electrolyzers operating on solar and wind energy for generating hydrogen which can be stored and then used to drive fuel cells for generating energy as needed.
In 2014, HNEI is helping Hawaiian Electric Co. to launch a project to see whether battery technology can be effectively used to open the utility’s grid to greater amounts of solar power produced by rooftop photovoltaic panels.
The project was featured in a January 5, 2014, article in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “Batteries put to test in PV plan” (subscription required). The story highlights a particular Hawaii Kai community with one of the island’s highest concentrations of PV panels, but HNEI is actually partnering with HECO on this effort statewide. A Molokai battery project is also planned for this year.
About the project in West Oahu, HNEI director Richard Rochelau said:
It’s going on a line with a substantial amount of PV and industrial load. We’ll be doing some combination of smoothing out the power on that line and also providing voltage support.”