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Hawaiian Electric and Varentec to test technology for more rooftop solar

Staff writer ▼ | April 6, 2016
Hawaiian Electric Company and Santa Clara-based Varentec are working together on grid reliability and efficiency while allowing more private rooftop solar systems to be added to island grids.
Oahu solar
Green energy   A pilot project will start on the island of Oahu
Starting with a pilot project on the island of Oahu, 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.

"Hawaii 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.

"Varentec offers a mature, grid edge voltage 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 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 Hawaii, 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.”

Varentec provides innovative solutions for the nascent generation of distributed grid control. It is funded by Bill Gates, 3M, and Khosla Ventures and has received support from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Varentec GEMS^TM software platform, coupled with ENGO^TM power electronic devices deployed on the low voltage side of the distribution grid, controls voltage and reactive power in real time and eradicates grid edge voltage volatility, even when high numbers of distributed PV solar systems are deployed on a circuit.

Varentec's technology provides a turnkey, stand-alone solution to Distribution Utilities.

In deployments across the U.S. and Canada, Varentec's technology is providing advanced grid edge Volt Var Control, and has achieved unparalleled 24/7/365 energy savings of 5% or more, during peak times or day-to-day operations, while significantly reducing technical losses.