WAILUKU - Massachusetts-based A123 Systems for the second time in a month announced plans to provide its advanced nanophosphate lithium ion batteries to help stabilize Maui's power grid as fluctuating clean energy sources - and expensive renewable energy experiments and projects - become more common.
The grid battery system is designed to hold 1 megawatt in reserve at the Wailea substation at a transformer for Maui Electric Co. for an hour during top power usage.
"A123's advanced energy storage system has demonstrated the ability to shift peak energy loads when demand is high to provide the consistent delivery of quality power, which is an extremely valuable service that supports MECO's ongoing effort to increase the reliability of the grid and maximize the generation resources we have in place," said MECO President Ed Reinhardt.
It also is part of the utility's collaboration in the growing field of finding and implementing new ways to control and improve power distribution, a recent A123 announcement said. A major problem with clean energy is that power can suddenly curtail, such as when breezes die down at wind farms.
The new battery system is being tested on Maui for the "next generation of energy grids," said Robert Johnson, vice president of energy solutions at A123.
"The bottom line is all this research and practice under way now should help Maui in getting us off of imported oil" as soon as possible while at the same time providing stable energy prices to customers, MECO spokeswoman Kau'i Awai-Dickson said.
MECO officials, lawmakers and local business leaders and scientists said the climate for experimentation has dramatically improved: And Maui's weather, unique topography, existing technology and MECO's small grid make the Valley Isle an ideal worldwide testing - and investing - ground.
The A123 battery system is related to the $14 million Maui Smart Grid Project as well as another solar "inverter" new test project, Awai-Dickson said. The grid experiment is intended to help residents better manage and reduce energy consumption during high-use periods through technology.
"The Maui Smart Grid Project will enable us to evaluate new technologies for enhancing our operations," Reinhardt said.
The battery system also could manage and maybe prevent some power outages due to overloads, Awai-Dickson said.
The storage system will be installed sometime in 2012, said A123 spokesman Dan Borgasano. The cost was not available.
MECO, the University of Hawaii and the Department of Energy have been developing the smart-grid project for home use in South Maui, by the new battery substation.
The inverter project, meanwhile, allows MECO for the first time to see how much photovoltaic solar power is in use at any moment, Awai-Dickson said. PV has been in high demand.
The A123 battery system is "designed to help MECO demonstrate and evaluate new technologies for operating the electric grid more efficiently," company officials said.
MECO's smart-grid goals include measuring some of its energy-distribution methods.
One way MECO seeks to collect real-life use data is by providing 200 Maui Meadow homeowners wireless home energy information kits.
Participants could see from a laptop where power in their homes is being used most. The project may even involve MECO adding "smart" thermostats that adjust temperature when no one's home.
Also, last month, A123 also said it would supply an 11-megawatt grid battery system for Sempra Generation's Auwahi wind project at Ulupalakua Ranch. The wind farm could power 10,000 homes.
"We'll see how these systems go," Borgasano said. "Our storage should be perfect for their needs. Hopefully, our success will open the door for us to do more projects there."
* Chris Hamilton can be reached at email@example.com.