General Electric Chooses Hawaiian Resort as Test Site for Smart Grid

The most fossil-dependent state in the U.S. will become a testing ground for energy-saving technologies

A Maui resort community is slated for a new smart grid, courtesy of General Electric. The power grid will cut back energy costs by automatically turning off household appliances when electricity prices soar, and aims for the 2012 goal of reducing peak electricity consumption by 15 percent.

The community of Wailea will see new power meters in homes that help monitor electricity usage among different appliances, according to AP. Part of the project also involves upgrading utility computers so that they can better integrate renewable energy from more unpredictable sources such as solar and wind.

Hawaii currently must import 90 percent of its energy from outside, but has set a goal of trying to pull in 70 percent of power from clean energy by 2030. Maui can currently get up to 30 megawatts from wind energy, in comparison to peak loads of 200 megawatts — but even just getting roughly 10 percent of its total energy from wind can lead to grid complications due to minute-by-minute fluctuations.

Half of the $14 million in funding for the Maui Smart Grid comes from federal economic recovery money funneled through the Department of Energy, and the rest from General Electric and Hawaiian Electric.

Wailea would join about 70 smart grid plots that exist nationwide, and perhaps represent another step toward reinventing the U.S. power grid to accommodate future visions of cleaner energy.

[AP via Scientific American]