Hawaiian Electric Co. looks to improve grid reliability, boost rooftop solar with Varentec deal

Hawaii solar utility

Here at the NABCEP 2016 Conference in San Diego, no matter what the panel is about, talk always seems to lead back to the effect on the grid and how utilities may or may not react. The first state mentioned every time in any of these discussions is usually Hawaii. So, a new strategic partnership between Hawaiian Electric Company and Santa Clara-based Varentec, Inc., is interesting. HEC will install and validate the performance of Varentec’s technology for ensuring grid reliability and efficiency while allowing more private rooftop solar systems to be added to island grids.

Starting with a pilot project on the island of O’ahu, Hawaiian Electric Company will use Varentec’s Edge of Network Grid Optimizers and Grid Edge Management System platform to minimize voltage fluctuations along the distribution grid and maintain safe, reliable operations along a neighborhood circuit with a high level of distributed solar generation.

“Hawai’i continues to lead the nation in the adoption of private rooftop solar. At Hawaiian Electric, we continue to search for innovative technologies to lower the cost and increase the speed at which rooftop solar can be added,” said Colton Ching, Hawaiian Electric vice president of energy delivery.

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“Varentec offers a mature, grid edge Volt Var Control technology that can be deployed very quickly to help solve the rooftop solar integration problem we are facing. Even though Varentec’s technology was not primarily designed for this purpose, our innovative engineers are eager to test this Volt Var Control technology to solve our unique solar challenges.”

A key challenge resulting from a large number of rooftop solar systems feeding excess electricity into a neighborhood circuit is increased voltage instability for all customers, with or without rooftop solar. Higher than allowed voltage can trip off rooftop solar systems, damage home appliances, and could endanger utility crews working on the grid. Hawaiian Electric and Varentec believe the unique capabilities of Varentec’s system-level, dynamic-control technology can address voltage issues at a lower cost to customers than other alternatives considered.

“We are excited to move forward with this partnership and further demonstrate the benefits of our technology for high penetration solar circuits in Hawai’i, which leads the nation with the highest levels of rooftop solar,” said Guillaume Dufosse, Varentec CEO.

“Working with Hawaiian Electric has shown their reputation for innovation is well deserved. While primarily focusing on solving immediate solar penetration challenges, we will further analyze innovative uses of Varentec’s technology such as voltage control for energy conservation and peak demand reduction in the context of the Hawaiian Electric network.”

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