The governor of Hawaii and the president of Japan's leading industrial development center signed an agreement on Tuesday to officially make a joint smart grid project to be built in the island of Maui.
The state will partner with Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, or NEDO, to install technologies like smart meters, with the end in view of having Maui residents use smart appliances, solar panels and electric car charging stations in the future.
The project has a budget of $37 million.
The project aims to verify how well smart grid technologies work in an area already using large amounts of renewable energy. On Maui, 15 percent of the island's electricity supply already comes from renewable energy, with plans to raise this further.
An array of systems and devices, including smart meters that will manage energy use and collect data, will be installed in the Kihei district. An island-wide overhaul of the grid to enable it to handle increased demand for power from EV charging will also be done.
Following an earlier report, it was confirmed that Japanese conglomerate Hitachi will be the project leader for the entire activity, together with Cyber Defence Institute. and Mizuho Corporate Bank. The companies will work together with the state, the Hawaiian Electric Company, the University of Hawaii and United States national laboratories.
Based on a project timetable, engineering design began in October. Actual installations are expected to start late next year. The companies will begin operating the project in 2013.
The island-wide experiment is based on the Japan-U.S. Clean Energy Technologies Action Plan which was agreed to following the meeting of both countries' heads of state in November, 2009. This agreement also led to the Hawaii-Okinawa Partnership on Clean and Efficient Energy Development and Deployment.
Aloha renewable energy
Hawaii is fast becoming a major player in the global clean energy market. It has created a legal mandate - a renewable portfolio standard - which requires that by 2030, 40 percent of the electricity sold by local communities will come from renewables.
In 2010, Hawaiian electric companies attained an R.P.S. of 20.7 percent. This means that amount of power from Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light, the state's three utilities, come from renewable energy.
Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, basking under a year-round sun and having strong winds and active volcanoes, Hawaii is a perfect test bed for renewable energy with four sources all in one place.
To date, the state has 66 renewable energy projects in various stages of development. However, existing grids are not designed to handle fluctuating power coming from these sources that depend heavily on the weather and time of day.
"After the test is done, we'll have in place an alternative energy infrastructure that will be highly valuable to us now and on into the foreseeable future," President Hideo Hato of NEDO said during the signing of the memorandum of agreement at the state capitol.
"We hope that this project will provide a model for island grids in the Asia-Pacific region and across the globe," he said.