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National renewables lab picks Hawaii for integration study

The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is about to examine the ins and outs of integrating wind power into electricity systems by setting up a testing site at UPC Wind's 30 MW Kaheawa Wind Farm on the Hawaiian island of Maui. NREL, which serves as the government's renewables research arm, will increase its understanding of how to manage variable output by monitoring Hawaii's small, closed grid, says the lab's George Douglas. The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, a partnership between the state and the Department of Energy (DOE), aims for 70% of Hawaii's energy to come from renewables by 2030. "There are some unique circumstances to island communities. But there are also some general principles of integration that I'm sure will be seen as Hawaii approaches the 70% goal. Lessons learned in Hawaii will be looked at to see if they're applicable in other parts of the country and the world," says Douglas. The project has no specific price tag, but NREL will work directly with UPC on Maui. The work is supported by DOE funds already committed to wind research. Douglas expects decisions on staffing and equipment to be made over the next few weeks and months. "And I'd bet there are a bunch of wind engineers in Colorado that are really tired of winter by this point who would really like to take a trip to Hawaii," he says. Hawaii imports 90% of its energy. The Maui site will be NREL's first research job based outside of Colorado.

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