Enphase remote upgrades microinverters in Hawaii for grid integration

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Solar microinverter manufacturer Enphase has stepped up its involvement in a collaborative effort with Hawaii’s main electric utility to stabilise the US state’s grid networks.

Enphase announced that it has performed an upgrade on 800,000 so-called smart microinverters installed on the islands to meet new requirements for Hawaiian Electric. Enphase said the upgrades are for new standards in voltage ride-through and frequency settings on Hawaii’s “changing grids”. Hawaiian Electric is one of the operating divisions of Hawaiian Electric Industries (HECO), and includes 95% of the state’s population in its service areas.

Hawaii has become one of the most talked about regions in solar and latterly also in energy storage due to the high penetration of PV on the islands’ grid networks. In some areas more than 10% of the population has solar installed on their rooftops. This has led to HECO issuing a request for proposal (RFP) for 200MW of storage and a number of large-scale battery systems being installed and assessed for their suitability for integrating PV into the grid. Going forward, Hawaii has committed to achieving a 65% renewable energy target by 2030, but has also promised to lower consumer energy bills by 20% in that time, meaning integration of PV will only become more of a pressing concern in the near future.

Enphase claims the fact that its microinverters, which adjust the output of solar power plants at the module level, are software-defined and remotely upgradable makes them a good fit for meeting the challenges presented by the growth in distributed generation in Hawaii. Chief executive officer and president Paul Nahi also hailed the company’s latest announcement as a success for the collaborative approach between the microinverter maker and the utility.

“Enphase delivers on the technological challenge of bringing scale and control to distributed power generation, with an approach that is highly collaborative. By working closely with utility partners like Hawaiian Electric, we are able to move the industry closer to achieving the full integration of solar onto the grid,” Nahi said.

Hawaiian Electric’s vice president of head of energy delivery meanwhile acclaimed Enphase’s ability to “quickly deploy technical solutions that benefit our customers and increase the use of renewable energy in Hawaii”.

The announcement also comes as HECO is also in the process of merging with renewable energy developer NextEra Energy, with the two parties filing a proposal to the state’s regulator, the Hawaii Public Utilities’ Commission (PUC) at the end of January.

This article has been amended to reflect that 800,000 Enphase microinverters have been upgraded, not 80,000 as was originally published.

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