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Utilities prepare for smart grid innovations in Aloha State

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, October 10, 2011

From the large island of Maui to the small and sparsely populated beaches of Kauai, utilities and co-ops are seeing progress in deploying new smart grid technologies that will help Hawaii manage high loads of power in a more efficient way.

Recently, state regulators gave the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) the go-ahead to allocate funds to participate in the upcoming Cooperative Research Network’s (CRN's) Smart Grid Demonstration project, the Electric Co-op Today reports.

According to the new source, KIUC, a utility based in Lihue, Kauai, will now be a part of an initiative to integrate technologically advanced communications infrastructure on existing power distribution systems that will allow for two-way communication among the system.

"The project is transformative for the island of Kauai," the state’s public utilities commission noted at the end of last month.

The utility will deploy the technology using the $33.9 million in stimulus funds given to the CRN by the U.S. Department of Energy to be used for research into the benefits of a wide range of smart grid technologies in 12 states. The demonstration project that KIUC will participate in will show how the smart grid can improve reliability and efficiency in cooperative systems, according to the media outlet.

The overall effort of the CRN's Smart Grid Demonstration project is to help utilities and co-ops "speedily and effectively deploy various smart grid technologies," according to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

The demonstration project hopes to tackle several issues that face smart grid deployment, including how to manage the large amounts of data that will be created by the smart grid, how to securely implement the new technologies, ways to extend and improve the interoperability of the smart grid and how to create a communications infrastructure that can cope with the more intensive requirements of a smarter grid.

SUBNET Solutions Inc., a provider of smart grid software and information resources for utilities, has taken all of these factors into account, and has developed a model that addresses the problems seen in smart grid deployment and provides solutions for easy integration.

The new infrastructure in Kauai will also feature remote access to data and will demonstrate effective load control and demand response measures. The project will cost an estimated $11.9 million dollars, 50 percent of which will be paid for by federal funding.

"We are a small island grid," said Mike Yamane, the co-op’s chief of operations and project lead engineer. "Upgrading our electrical grid with smart meters and related technology can make our system more efficient and help integrate new smart appliances, electric cars, and other new and evolving technologies over the coming years."

According to the news provider, the co-op expects the communications infrastructure to be installed in the next two years, which will then be followed by about three years of gathering data for analysis.

On the larger, more populated island of Maui, the Maui Smart Grid Project is calling for volunteers to have smart grid technologies installed into the homes and integrated into the existing power infrastructure at no cost, Maui Now reports.

Maui Electric Company (MECO) has stated it will use the opportunity to monitor and manage delivery of the electricity to gain experience in working with the coming smart grid.

"Improving each island’s electricity grid through new smart grid technologies is a key element of Hawaii’s landmark clean energy goals," Griffin said. "Through the experiences of Maui residents in this project, we will learn valuable lessons about the best ways to modernize Hawaii’s electricity system."

Like Kauai's initiative, the Maui program is also being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.  

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