The Hawaii Solar Integration Study is a detailed technical examination of the effects of high penetrations of solar and wind energy on the operations of the electric grids of two Hawaiian Islands: Maui and Oahu. Carried out under the auspices of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (see below), the study was jointly sponsored by the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO).
Unlike mainland power grids, island power grids are self-contained and isolated, so they have no neighboring grids to turn to for support if they are pushed beyond their normal operating limits. The Hawaiian Islands also rely heavily on oil and oil products to fuel their power plants, which results in high electricity costs that help make renewable energy economically competitive.
Maui and Oahu already have significant wind and solar power feeding their electric grids, but the utilities on each island wanted to know how their grids will operate with more renewable energy. Some of this is will be under utility control in the form of centralized, utility-owned solar power plants, but much of the solar power will be distributed throughout the island on homes and businesses—outside of the utility’s control.
The study included detailed computer modeling and simulations of the generation and transmission systems on each island to examine how future scenarios of high penetrations of solar and wind power will affect generator operations under normal system configurations. The distribution-level impacts were not assessed in this study. For cases in which the generator deviated from its preferred operating parameters, potential mitigation strategies were proposed and modeled.