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.

RELATED: Solar vs. the state: Net metering, rate battles are heating up around the country 

“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.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Ecoplexus to construct 25-MW project in North Carolina

Ecoplexus North Carolina

Ecoplexus Inc. announced the closing of financing for a 25-MW solar PV project in Whitakers, N.C. The project will be installed with approximately 150,000 Solar Frontier modules and will achieve commercial operation in late 2015. Its completion will mark the ninth Ecoplexus project in North Carolina and a total of 53 MW in Q4 2015. Representing $45 million in project costs, the project increases Ecoplexus’ current IPP asset base which will stand at 77 MWs by year-end.

Ecoplexus develops, owns and operates solar PV projects for the utility and industrial markets in the U.S. and Japan via its wholly owned subsidiary Ecoplexus Japan KK. The company has developed and financed over 50 projects to date. Customers include major utilities such as PG&E, Duke, Progress, Xcel Energy, and Georgia Power and approximately 15 municipalities in the U.S.

RELATED: North Carolina hits 1 GW of solar capacity (we start slow clap) 

The project has a signed long-term PPA contract with Dominion North Carolina Power. Once fully operational, the system will provide North Carolina with approximately 40 GWh of clean electricity annually, enough to power an estimated 3,800 households. The renewable power generated will offset 27,404 metric tons of CO2 emissions, equivalent to the emissions sequestered from nearly 23,000 acres of forest annually.

“We are pleased to contribute to Dominion’s renewable energy portfolio and play a role in providing North Carolinians with affordable clean energy,” said John Gorman, CEO of Ecoplexus. “With our office in Durham, NC and our projects in the region, we are committed to delivering real and lasting benefits to North Carolina and neighboring states.”

Charles Pimentel, COO of Solar Frontier Americas commented, “We are pleased our advanced CIS modules were selected for this PV project developed by Ecoplexus, a company dedicated to building high quality, clean-energy plants.”


— Solar Builder magazine

6-MW Florida power plant just completed by SunEdison

Construction of a new 6-MW AC solar power plant was completed by SunEdison that will supply electricity to Lakeland Electric, the third largest public power utility in the State of Florida, through a 25-year power purchase agreement.

Sun EdisonThe Bella Vista solar power plant is expected to generate approximately 14 GWh of electricity each year, enough to power more than 1,300 homes and avoid the emission of 21 million pounds of carbon dioxide, the equivalent to removing more than 2,000 cars from the road.

In addition to the 6 MW Bella Vista solar power plant, SunEdison has completed three other projects for Lakeland Electric and is developing two more. The total solar power capacity of the portfolio under the Master Agreement is expected to be 24 MW.

TerraForm Power, a global owner and operator of clean energy power plants, acquired this project upon completion from its Call Right Projects list. Operation and maintenance of the solar system will be performed by SunEdison Services, which provides global 24/7 asset management, monitoring and reporting services.

— Solar Builder magazine