HECO tests 'virtual power plant' to back up power grid

HECO tests 'virtual power plant' to back up power grid

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Museum of Art displays its exhibits in temperature- and humidity-controlled settings.

And those climate controls used to mean a sky high electricity bill — until Hawaiian Electric invited the museum to join a novel pilot project.

As part the project, the utility supplied the museum with a battery storage system and software.

The storage system tells the museum when to pull power from the storage batteries instead of the power grid. And HECO can also pull power from the batteries when needed.

The system saved the museum $10,000 a month in power costs, said operations manager Eric Walden.

HECO senior spokesman Peter Rosegg said the program, which could be unique in the nation, is a win-win.

"When they have an occasion, when they have an exceptionally high demand, which they have to pay more for, they use the battery so that they keep their demand pretty level," he said. "That helps them to control their energy cost."

Rosegg added that HECO is the first utility in the country experimenting with what it calls a "virtual power plant."

"This was a test to see that it works, and it does," he said.

Watanabe Floral is also participating in the project.

The software system gives the company an instant readout on its power usage.

"It monitors the solar panels, the battery backup system, the benefits of it. So it shows the you the whole picture of the utility bills," chief financial officer Leon Dodson said.

In all, 20 businesses and institutions are involved in the experiment. Together, their systems can store up to one megawatt of power, which HECO can tap into when needed.

"Our system operators know that they can call on that battery stored electricity when they have a problem on the grid," Rosegg said.

The systems can also be hooked up to PV panels that can charge the batteries or they can be charged directly from the grid.

"We have our own generators so we never go down, even if there's a power outage. It allows us to help," Walden said.

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