Hawaii Using Smart Grid Controls to Turn Lights Off When the Wind Stops Blowing

David Sifry via Flickr CC/CC BY 2.0

Hawaii has the wonderfully ambitious goal of getting 70 percent of their energy needs from renewable sources by 2030. To meet that goal, the state will be developing lots of stable geothermal and biomass power, but they'll also be relying heavily on wind power. Hawaii has great wind power resources, but the downside is the variability of the wind. For the smaller islands especially, which currently depend on diesel-powered generators, a major downturn in wind power generation or a peak in demand that isn't being met by those sources could be a disaster for the grid.

To practice responding to those fluctuations, Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO) is teaming up with Honeywell to use their automated demand response technology in its first wind power-based pilot. HECO is offering customers some major cash incentives to take part in this voluntary program where their power loads can be turned down or powered off within 10 minutes' notice if wind power takes a nose dive. Customers will get $5 per kilowatt for signing up for the program and 50 cents for every kilowatt-hour that they're actually powered down.

Both residential and business customers will turn over control of their lights, air conditioners, appliances, factory motors and process lines to Honeywell's Tridium smart grid controllers. The goal of the program is to be able to quickly power down 50 MW of capacity to balance out the grid if wind power generation slows. Customers will be linked to HECO over Honeywell's automated demand response servers and the Tridium controllers will be installed at buildings to make the actual power load adjustments like cycling the air conditioner units, turning off non-essential lights, pumps and motors.

The Oahu project will also connect HECO to the 30-MW wind farm on its North Shore that includes a 10-MWh battery back-up system so that the wind farm and utility can communicate to provide the smoothest delivery of power to the grid.

Other automated demand response programs have worked on balancing power load with a day's or even hour's notice, but wind power will require much faster response times. This type of practice is necessary for ultimately building a smart grid that will be connecting various types of renewable energy sources, all with their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to output, reliability and consistency.

Tags: Hawaii | Smart grid | Wind Power