Wind and Solar Could Supply 25 Percent of Oahu’s Electricity

Solar Power in Hawaii is taking off
Solar Power in Hawaii is taking off

by Joshua S Hill – “The findings of this study show it is feasible to integrate large-scale wind and solar projects on Oahu but also have value beyond Hawaii. Both large mainland utilities and relatively small and/or isolated grids that wish to integrate significant amounts of renewable energy while maintaining reliability for their customers can learn from this study,” said Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) director Dr. Rick Rocheleau, regarding a study which shows that 500 MW of wind energy and 100 MW of solar power could supply more than 25 percent of Oahu’s projected electricity demand.

The Oahu Wind Integration Study (OWIS) was conducted by Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, General Electric (GE) Company, and the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO).

Oahu Wind Integration Study Findings

The study found that the combined 600 MW of renewable energy could eliminate the need for approximately 2.8 million barrels of low sulphur fuel oil and 132,000 tonnes of coal each year, while still maintaining a reliable system, if the following recommendations are incorporated:

  •  Provide state-of-the-art wind power forecasting to help anticipate the amount of power that will be available from wind;
  •  Increase power reserves (the amount of power that can be called upon from operating generators) to help manage wind variability and uncertainty in wind power forecasts;
  •  Reduce minimum stable operating power of baseload generating units to provide more power reserves;
  •  Increase ramp rates (the time it takes to increase or decrease output) of Hawaiian Electric’s thermal generating units;
  •  Implement severe weather monitoring to ensure adequate power generation is available during periods of higher wind power variability;
  •  Evaluate other resources capable of contributing reserve, such as fast-starting thermal generating units and load control programs.

“To reach our renewable energy goals we need to use all the resources available to us. For Oahu, this includes the utility-scale solar, roof-top solar, waste-to-energy and on-island wind that we are pursuing. But on-island resources are not enough to meet Oahu’s power needs,” said Hawaiian Electric executive vice president Robbie Alm.

“We know that more solar power is possible on Oahu than was studied by the OWIS. However, this baseline study is an essential first step for the Interisland Wind Project. It shows that the technology may present challenges but these can be overcome. The questions now are financing, environmental impact and whether the affected communities can live with the project with community benefits.”

The wind energy not produced on Oahu would be brought in from Molokai and Lanai.