Federal grants to increase solar and renewable energy

The State of Hawaii was awarded more than $7 million in federal grants for renewable energy projects that include increasing solar energy and electric vehicles in Hawaii, Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced at Tuesday’s opening of the 2011 Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced the following grants:

  • $6.1 million to the University of Hawaii (UH) to work with industry partners to allow the electric grid to take on more solar energy by developing photovoltaic (PV) inverters;
  • $750,000 to state Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT) to provide technical assistance to the Public Utilities Commission and ultimately help remove barriers to allow for more renewable energy on the electric grid;
  • $300,000 to the UH Maui College in partnership with DBEDT and private industry to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles in Hawaii;

“To move beyond just talking about energy independence in Hawaii, many people are now doing the intricate and necessary technical work behind the scenes,” Abercrombie said. “The partnerships we are building among government agencies, utilities and private companies are advancing our plans to grow a sustainable economy here in the islands. And our strong alignment with President Obama’s clean energy initiatives opens up new opportunities for Hawaii agencies, companies, and entrepreneurs.”

The number of PV systems, which generate electricity from sunlight, has doubled in each of the last three years, making Hawaii second in the nation in photovoltaic per capita use.

The two federal grants received by DBEDT and UH will help improve the reliability of the electricity delivery system as we continue to expand our use of renewable energy sources. Right now, electricity is generated when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.

The projects will address both technical and regulatory changes to address the variability of solar power and other renewable energy.

“The technology developed through these grants has the potential to facilitate a broader adoption of PV systems at lower costs,” said Dr. Rick Rocheleau, Director of UH’s Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI).

“These grants are important investments in Hawaii’s efforts to move toward energy independence,” said Estrella Seese, Acting Energy Program Administrator of DBEDT’s State Energy Office. “With the many strategic partnerships between state agencies including UH, the USDOE and energy industry, Hawaii is poised to reduce its dependence on imported fuels within two decades.”