How the Hawaiian Power Grid Works

Practical Engineering
19 Mar 202417:12

Summary

TLDRIn January 2024, a major storm in Hawaii caused significant damage to the power grid, highlighting the challenges of operating a small, isolated power system. The Hawaiian islands, each with its own electrical system, face issues with reliability, cost, and the integration of renewable energy sources. The state's goal to rely on 70% renewable energy by 2030 and eliminate fossil fuel use by 2045 presents unique engineering and economic hurdles, making Hawaii a test bed for sustainable energy solutions.

Takeaways

  • ūüƙԳŹ In January 2024, a major storm in Hawaii caused power outages on Oahu and Kauai, highlighting the vulnerability of the islands' power grids.
  • ūüí° The Hawaiian Electric utility serves most of the state's population, while Kauai has its own electric cooperative, and inter-island connections have been challenging due to technical and environmental factors.
  • ūüĒĆ Each island in Hawaii has its own separate electrical system, leading to unique operational challenges compared to larger, interconnected power grids.
  • ‚öôÔłŹ Reliability in power grids is achieved through redundancy, but as reliability increases, the cost per increment rises significantly.
  • ūüĆě and ūüƨԳŹ Renewable energy sources like solar and wind make up about 25% of Hawaii's power but are intermittent and require storage or baseload solutions to stabilize the grid.
  • ūüõĘÔłŹ Hawaii relies heavily on imported petroleum for electricity, making it susceptible to international price fluctuations and highlighting the importance of renewable energy for energy security.
  • ūüŹ† Distributed energy resources, such as residential solar installations, bring power closer to consumers but also introduce complexities in grid management and revenue for utilities.
  • ūüĒč Battery systems and other storage solutions are crucial for managing the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources in Hawaii.
  • ūüöę The small scale of Hawaiian power grids and the rapid growth of renewable energy present unique engineering challenges and costs that must be shared by consumers.
  • ūüĆź Hawaii's commitment to clean energy includes goals of 70% renewable energy by 2030 and complete elimination of fossil fuel use by 2045, positioning it as a leader in renewable energy adoption.
  • ūüĒĄ Innovations like smart grid technologies and time-of-use rates are being explored to improve grid resilience and efficiency in Hawaii.

Q & A

  • What natural disaster impacted the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Kauai in January 2024?

    -A major storm slammed into the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Kauai in January 2024, causing severe winds and heavy rain.

  • How did the storm affect the Waiau Steam Turbine plant?

    -The rain from the storm reached some of the generator unit controls at the Waiau Steam Turbine plant, tripping two units and knocking 100 megawatts of power off the grid.

  • What challenges did the overcast weather pose to the power generation in Hawaii?

    -The overcast weather meant that solar panels weren't producing much electricity, and the battery systems at Kapolei and Waiawa were running out of power.

  • What led to the depletion of Hawaiian Electric‚Äôs power reserves on Oahu?

    -The combination of the storm damage, low power production from solar panels, and the H-POWER trash-to-energy plant tripping offline led to the depletion of Hawaiian Electric’s power reserves on Oahu.

  • How did Hawaiian Electric respond to the lack of power generation?

    -Hawaiian Electric implemented rolling blackouts across the island of Oahu to bring power demands down to a manageable level.

  • Why is each populated island in Hawaii served by its own separate electrical system?

    -Each populated island in Hawaii has its own separate electrical system because there have been challenges in connecting the islands through undersea transmission cables due to the depth and distance, volcanic and seismic hazards, and the sensitive ecology of the surrounding ocean.

  • What is the main goal of Hawaii's Clean Energy Initiative launched in 2008?

    -The main goal of Hawaii's Clean Energy Initiative is to meet 70 percent of its energy needs through renewables and increased efficiencies by 2030 and completely eliminate fossil fuel use by 2045.

  • What percentage of Hawaii's electric power currently comes from power plants that run on petroleum?

    -Roughly 75% of the electric power in Hawaii currently comes from power plants that run on petroleum.

  • What are the challenges associated with integrating a high percentage of renewable energy sources into the grid?

    -The challenges include the intermittent nature of renewable sources like wind and solar, the need for storage or firm baseload to balance supply and demand, and the engineering complexities of managing a grid with a mix of traditional and inverter-based energy sources.

  • What is the significance of distributed energy resources in Hawaii?

    -Distributed energy resources, such as small-scale solar installations, bring resources closer to the loads, reduce strain on transmission lines, and utilize developed space efficiently. However, they also introduce complexities in grid management, voltage and frequency regulation, and cybersecurity risks.

  • How do the political biases in media coverage affect the perception of events like the Odysseus lander's moon landing?

    -Political biases can lead to differences in focus and emphasis in media coverage, with right-leaning outlets focusing more on the private sector aspect and left-leaning outlets highlighting partnerships with NASA, potentially shaping public perception differently.

  • What innovative solutions is Hawaii exploring to improve its energy grid?

    -Hawaii is exploring smart grid technologies for automated fault detection and recovery, and time-of-use rates to encourage off-peak power usage, aiming for a more resilient, secure, and flexible energy future.

Outlines

00:00

ūüƙԳŹ Hawaiian Storm Impact on Power Grid

In January 2024, a major storm hit the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Kauai, causing significant damage. The storm led to the tripping of two generator units at the Waiau Steam Turbine plant, resulting in a loss of 100 megawatts of power, approximately 10% of the demand. The overcast weather further reduced electricity production from solar panels, and the battery systems at Kapolei and Waiawa were depleted. Additional generating units were out of service for maintenance, and the H-POWER trash-to-energy plant also went offline. This led to rolling blackouts on Oahu to manage power demands. The incident highlighted the challenges of operating a small power grid, with each populated island in Hawaii having its own separate electrical system, and the difficulties in maintaining reliability and redundancy in such a setup.

05:01

ūüí° The Hawaiian Electric Grid: Independence and Reliability

Hawaii's power grid is unique in that each populated island has its own electrical system, with the exception of Kauai, which has its own electric cooperative. The state's power grid faces challenges due to its isolation and the lack of interconnections between islands. The goal of connecting the islands through undersea transmission cables has been hindered by technical and environmental concerns. The focus on individual power plants, transmission lines, and distribution systems for each island presents unique operational challenges, especially in terms of maintaining grid reliability. The video also discusses the concept of reliability in electrical grids, emphasizing the importance of redundancy and the increasing cost of achieving higher levels of reliability.

10:04

ūüĆĪ Renewable Energy and its Challenges in Hawaii

Hawaii relies heavily on imported petroleum for its electricity, making it vulnerable to international price fluctuations. The state has made strides in renewable energy, with about 25% of its power coming from renewable sources like wind, solar, and geothermal energy. However, the intermittent nature of these sources poses challenges, including the need for storage solutions and the difficulty in forecasting power availability. The video also addresses the engineering complexities of integrating renewable energy into the grid, especially when a significant portion of the energy comes from distributed resources like small-scale solar installations on rooftops. These distributed energy resources can create unexpected loads and affect voltage and frequency, complicating grid management.

15:07

ūüĒĄ The Future of Hawaii's Energy: Innovations and Goals

Hawaii has ambitious goals to increase renewable energy use and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. The Clean Energy Initiative aims to meet 70% of energy needs through renewables by 2030, with an ultimate goal of eliminating fossil fuel use by 2045. The state has already seen a significant increase in renewable generation and has implemented policies to support further growth. Innovations such as smart grid technologies and time-of-use rates are being explored to improve grid efficiency and manage demand. The video highlights the challenges and opportunities that Hawaii faces as it becomes a leader in renewable energy, paving the way for a more resilient and flexible energy future.

ūüďį Media Bias and the Odysseus Lander

The video concludes with a discussion on media bias, using the coverage of the Odysseus lander's moon landing as an example. It shows how different news outlets, depending on their political leanings, can focus on different aspects of the same story. Right-leaning outlets emphasized the private sector's role, while left-leaning outlets highlighted the partnership with NASA. The video promotes a tool called Ground News, which provides a visual breakdown of political biases, factuality ratings, and ownership of news sources, helping viewers to understand and compare different perspectives on a story.

Mindmap

Keywords

ūüí°Drought

A prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall, leading to a shortage of water. In the context of the video, a serious drought across Hawaii preceded the major storm, highlighting the state's vulnerability to extreme weather events that can impact the power grid and infrastructure.

ūüí°Power Grid

An interconnected network for delivering electricity from power plants to consumers. The video emphasizes the challenges of operating a small power grid in Hawaii, where each island has its own separate electrical system, and the lack of interconnections between islands presents unique difficulties in maintaining reliability and balancing supply and demand.

ūüí°Reliability

The ability of a system or component to perform its required functions under stated conditions for a specified period of time. In the video, reliability is crucial for running an electrical grid, with the goal of maintaining a high uptime (99.9%). The video discusses how achieving higher levels of reliability becomes increasingly expensive as one approaches 100 percent uptime.

ūüí°Redundancy

The duplication of critical components or functions to increase the reliability of a system. In the context of the video, redundancy in power grids is achieved by having backup systems and multiple power sources to ensure continuous operation even when parts of the system fail. The video highlights that redundancy is essential for grid reliability but comes at a cost.

ūüí°Distributed Energy Resources

Small-scale, decentralized energy generation resources such as rooftop solar panels that connect to the grid. These resources bring electricity production closer to the point of use, reducing transmission line strain and leveraging local energy sources. However, they also introduce challenges in grid management, such as voltage and frequency fluctuations, and require smart grid technologies for effective integration.

ūüí°Renewable Energy

Energy generated from natural processes that are replenished at a rate that makes them virtually inexhaustible. In the video, renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal plants are highlighted as a significant part of Hawaii's energy portfolio, with the state aiming to eliminate fossil fuel use by 2045. The use of renewables reduces reliance on imported fuels and CO2 emissions but introduces engineering challenges due to their intermittent nature.

ūüí°Intermittent

Describing a source of power that is not constantly available, typically because it depends on natural factors like sunlight or wind. In the video, the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources like solar and wind is a key challenge, as it requires storage solutions or other power sources to maintain a stable supply when the primary source is not producing electricity.

ūüí°Smart Grid

An electrical grid that uses digital technology and advanced communication to improve efficiency, reliability, and sustainability. The video mentions smart grid technologies as part of the future solutions for Hawaii's energy challenges, including the automation of fault detection and the efficient management of distributed resources.

ūüí°Cyberattacks

Unauthorized attempts to access, disrupt, or gain unauthorized control over a computer system or network. In the context of the video, the increasing reliance on distributed energy resources, particularly inverters used in solar installations, raises concerns about the potential for cyberattacks, as their security depends on individual owners rather than a centralized authority.

ūüí°Net Metering

A billing arrangement that allows customers who generate their own electricity from renewable sources to send any excess electricity back to the grid and receive credit on their utility bill. The video touches on the complexity that net metering adds to utility billing, as it requires accounting for the power injected into the grid and how those savings should be distributed among customers.

ūüí°Energy Independence

The ability of a region or country to produce a significant portion of its energy needs from local or controlled sources, reducing reliance on external energy imports. The video discusses Hawaii's goal to achieve complete energy independence by eliminating fossil fuel use by 2045, which would transition the state from being highly dependent on imported fuels to being a leader in renewable energy and energy security.

Highlights

In January 2024, a major storm hit the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Kauai, causing widespread damage and power outages.

The storm led to the tripping of two generator units at the Waiau Steam Turbine plant, resulting in a loss of 100 megawatts of power, approximately 10% of the grid's demand.

The overcast weather reduced the electricity production from solar panels, and the battery systems at Kapolei and Waiawa were running out of power.

Other generating units were offline for scheduled maintenance during the winter months when power demands were lowest.

The H-POWER trash-to-energy plant also tripped offline, further straining the power grid.

Hawaiian Electric implemented rolling blackouts across Oahu to manage the power demand after reserves were depleted.

Each populated island in Hawaii has its own separate electrical system, with 95% of customers served by Hawaiian Electric.

Kauai is the only island with its own electric cooperative, and there have been proposals to connect the islands through undersea transmission cables, but no feasible solution has been found yet.

Reliability is a key challenge in running an electrical grid, which involves maintaining equipment and infrastructure that is rarely used to ensure a stable supply of electricity.

The cost of improving reliability increases significantly as the grid approaches 100 percent uptime due to the need for redundancy.

Larger power grids offer benefits such as smoothing out demand, providing more redundant paths for energy flow, and allowing for more power plants, leading to cost savings and environmental benefits.

Hawaii currently imports the majority of its fuel for power plants, making it susceptible to international price fluctuations and leading to high energy costs.

About 25% of Hawaii's electric power comes from renewable sources like wind, solar, and geothermal energy.

Renewable energy sources present challenges due to their intermittent nature, requiring storage solutions or firm baseload to balance supply and demand.

Small-scale solar installations contribute to about half of the renewable energy in Hawaii and are known as distributed energy resources.

Distributed energy resources can create unexpected loads on circuits and equipment not designed to handle them, affecting voltage and frequency on the grid.

Hawaii's Clean Energy Initiative aims to meet 70% of its energy needs through renewables and increased efficiencies by 2030 and eliminate fossil fuel use by 2045.

Hawaii is a leader in renewable energy adoption, facing and working out challenges that arise from integrating a large portion of renewables into the grid.

Smart grid technologies and time-of-use rates are being tested in Hawaii to improve grid efficiency and reduce the need for expensive generators.

The challenge in Hawaii is to balance the investment in grid improvements with the diverse needs and opinions of its residents, while also rapidly integrating renewable energy sources.

Transcripts

00:01

In January of 2024, right on the heels  of a serious drought across the state,  

00:07

a major storm slammed into the Hawaiian islands  of Oahu and Kauai. Severe winds caused damage to  

00:13

buildings, and heavy rain flooded roadways.  At the Waiau Steam Turbine plant,  

00:18

the rain reached some of the generator unit  controls, tripping two units and knocking 100  

00:24

megawatts of power off the tiny grid (roughly 10%  of demand). The overcast weather also meant solar  

00:30

panels weren’t producing much electricity, and the  colossal battery systems at Kapolei

00:35

and Waiawa were running out of juice.  Other generating units were out of service due to  

00:39

maintenance scheduled during the cool winter  months when power demands were lowest. Then,  

00:44

the H-POWER trash-to-energy plant tripped  offline as well. By the evening of January 8th,  

00:50

all of Hawaiian Electric’s power  reserves on Oahu were depleted,  

00:54

and it was clear that they weren’t going to have  enough generation to meet all the needs. And if  

00:59

you can’t increase supply, the only other  option is to force a reduction in demand.

01:04

At around 8:30 PM, the utility implemented rolling  outages across the island of Oahu to bring power  

01:11

demands down to a manageable level. For about 2  hours, the utility blacked out different sections  

01:16

of the island for 30 minutes each to minimize  the inconvenience. Twice since then, as of  

01:21

this writing, rolling outages have been forced on  Hawaii Island from unexpected trips at generators  

01:27

and scheduled maintenance at backup facilities,  making them unavailable to pick up the slack.

01:32

When we say ‚Äúpower grid‚ÄĚ we‚Äôre used to imagining¬† interconnections that cover huge areas and serve¬†¬†

01:37

tens to hundreds of millions of people. But  populated islands need a stable supply of  

01:42

electricity too. Those recent power disturbances  highlight some really interesting challenges that  

01:48

come from building and operating a small  power grid, so I thought it would be fun  

01:52

to use the 50th state as a case study to  dive into those difficulties. I’m Grady,  

01:57

and this is Practical Engineering. Today  we’re talking about the Hawaiian power grid.

02:09

Really, I should say Hawaiian power grids,  because each populated island in the state  

02:14

has its own separate electrical system. Around  95% of customers are served by a single utility,  

02:21

Hawaiian Electric, which maintains grids  on Oahu, Maui, Hawaii Island, Lanai,  

02:27

and Molokai. Kauai is the only island with its  own electric cooperative. There have been a few  

02:32

proposals and false starts to connect the islands  through undersea transmission cables and form a  

02:37

single grid. It is an enormous challenge to  install and maintain cables of that depth  

02:42

and distance. When you add in the volcanic and  seismic hazards of the area and the sensitive  

02:48

ecology of the surrounding ocean, so far, no  one has figured out how to make it feasible. So,  

02:53

each island has its own power plants, high-voltage  transmission lines, substations, and distribution  

02:59

system entirely disconnected from the others.  And that makes for some interesting challenges.

03:04

‚ÄúReliability‚ÄĚ is the name of the game¬† when it comes to running an electrical¬†¬†

03:08

grid. It’s not that complicated to build  generators, transmission lines, transformers,  

03:12

et cetera. What’s hard is to keep them all  running 99.9% of the time, day and night,  

03:18

rain or snow. Yeah, some parts of Hawaii  occasionally get snow.

03:23

This is a graph of a typical reliability curve that helps explain why  it’s a challenge. At the left end of the curve,  

03:29

you can get big increases with a small investment.  But the closer you get to 100 percent uptime,  

03:35

each increment gets a lot more expensive.  It really boils down to the fact that,  

03:40

in many ways, reliability comes from  redundancy. When something goes wrong,  

03:45

you need flexibility to keep the grid up. But,  in practice, that means you have to pay for and  

03:50

maintain equipment and infrastructure that rarely  gets used, or at least not to its full capacity.

03:56

Hopefully, it’s clear that the graph I  showed is idealized. It’s much harder  

04:00

to put concrete numbers to the question.  The random nature of problems that arise,  

04:05

our inability to predict the future, and the  fact that everything in a bulk power system is  

04:10

interconnected all make it practically impossible  to know how much investment is required to achieve  

04:16

any incremental improvement in reliability.  But it’s useful anyway because the graph helps  

04:21

clarify the benefits of a large power grid,¬† also known as a ‚Äúwide area interconnection.‚ÄĚ

04:28

For one, it smooths out demand. One part of a  region may have storms while another has good  

04:33

weather. From east to west, the peak power demand  comes at different times. Some areas get sun,  

04:39

some get shade. But overall, demands average out  and become less volatile as the grid gets bigger  

04:45

geographically. Larger interconnections also  have more redundant paths for energy to flow,  

04:51

reducing the impacts of major equipment problems  like transmission line outages. They have more  

04:56

power plants, again creating redundancy and  making it easier to schedule offline time to  

05:01

maintain those facilities. And, the power plants  themselves can be bigger, taking advantage of the  

05:06

economies of scale to make energy less expensive  and more environmentally beneficial. Finally,  

05:12

larger areas have more resources. Maybe it’s  windy over here, so you can take advantage and  

05:17

build wind turbines. Maybe this area has lots  of natural gas production, so you can produce  

05:22

power efficiently without having to pay for  expensive fuel transportation. In general,  

05:27

a wide area interconnection allows the costs  of equipment, infrastructure, resources, and  

05:33

operations to be shared, making it easier to keep  things running reliably. Hawaii has none of that.

05:41

Roughly 75% of the electric power in the  state currently comes from power plants that  

05:46

run on petroleum. There are no oil or natural gas  reserves in Hawaii, which means the vast majority  

05:52

of power on the islands comes from fuel imported  from foreign countries. That makes the state very  

05:58

susceptible to factors outside of its control,  including international issues that affect the  

06:02

price of oil. Each island has only a handful  of major power plants and transmission lines.  

06:08

And when storms happen, they often hit the entire  place at once. It’s easy to see why retail energy  

06:14

costs in Hawaii are around 3 times the average  price paid across the US. Every increment of  

06:20

reliability costs more than the one before it, and  each island has no one else to share those costs  

06:25

with. So, they get passed down to consumers.  But, it’s not just that the grids are small.

06:31

The bulk of the remaining roughly 25% of Hawaii’s  electric power not produced in oil-fired power  

06:37

plants comes from renewable sources: wind,  solar, and a single geothermal plant. This  

06:43

has the obvious benefit of reducing CO2 emissions,  but it also reduces the state’s exposure to the  

06:49

complexities of the fuel supply chain and price  volatility, taking advantage of resources that are  

06:54

actually available on the islands. But, renewable  sources come with their own set of engineering  

07:00

challenges, particularly when they represent  such a large percentage of the energy portfolio.

07:05

Of course, renewable sources are intermittent.  You don’t get power when the wind doesn’t blow  

07:10

or the sun doesn’t shine. That sporadic  nature necessitates options for storage  

07:15

or firm baseload to make up the difference  between supply and demand. It also makes it  

07:20

more complicated to forecast the availability of  power to plan ahead for maintenance, fuel needs,  

07:25

and so on. And, it requires those storage  facilities or baseload plants to ramp down  

07:30

and up very quickly as the sun and wind come and  go. But that’s not all. Solar and wind sources  

07:36

are also considered ‚Äúlow-inertia‚ÄĚ. Thermal¬† and hydroelectric power plants generally use¬†¬†

07:42

enormous turbines to generate electricity. Those  big machines have a lot of rotational inertia that  

07:48

stabilizes the AC frequency. The frequency of the  alternating current on the grid is basically its  

07:54

heartbeat. It’s a measure of health, indicating  whether supply and demand are properly balanced.  

07:59

If frequency starts to deviate too much, equipment  on the grid will sense that something’s wrong and  

08:05

disconnect themselves to prevent damage. The same  is true for lots of industrial equipment and even  

08:10

consumer devices. When conditions on the grid  fluctuate - say a transmission line or generator  

08:16

suddenly trips offline - the rotational inertia in  those big spinning turbines can absorb the changes  

08:22

and help the grid ride through with a stable  frequency. Solar panels and most wind turbines  

08:28

connect to the grid through inverters. Instead of  heavy spinning machines creating the alternating  

08:33

current, they’re basically just a bunch of little  switches. That means disturbances can create a  

08:38

faster and more significant effect on the grid,  reducing the quality of power and making it more  

08:44

difficult to keep things stable. I’m planning a  deep dive into how inverter-based energy sources  

08:49

work, so stay tuned for that in a future video.  But, it gets even more complicated than that.

08:54

Of all the renewable energy on the Hawaiian  islands, about half currently comes from  

09:00

small-scale solar installations, like those on  residential and commercial rooftops. They’re  

09:05

collectively known as ‚Äúdistributed energy¬† resources.‚ÄĚ This has the obvious benefit¬†¬†

09:10

of bringing resources closer to the loads,  reducing strain on transmission lines. It also  

09:16

takes advantage of space that is already developed  and builds capacity on the grid without requiring  

09:21

the utility to invest in new facilities. But,  distributed sources come with tradeoffs. Most  

09:27

parts of the grid are built for power to flow  in one direction, so injecting electricity at  

09:31

the downstream end can create unexpected loads  on circuits and equipment not designed to handle  

09:37

it. Distributed sources also affect voltage and  frequency, since something as simple as a cloud  

09:43

passing over a neighborhood can dramatically swing  the flow of power on the network. The inverters on  

09:48

small solar installations are generally dumb.  And I’m using that as a technical term. They  

09:53

can’t communicate with the rest of the grid; they  only respond based on what they can measure at the  

09:58

point of connection. The grid operator doesn’t  get good data on how much power the distributed  

10:03

sources are putting into the grid, and they have  little control over those inverters. They can’t  

10:08

tell them to reduce power if there’s too much  on the grid already or increase power to provide  

10:13

support. And inverters, especially consumer-grade  equipment, can behave in unexpected and unintended  

10:20

ways during faults and disturbances,  magnifying small problems into larger ones.

10:25

Those inverters can also make the grid more  vulnerable to cyberattacks since their security  

10:31

depends on individual owners. It’s not hard to  imagine how someone nefarious could take advantage  

10:36

of a large number of distributed sources  to sabotage parts of the grid. And finally,  

10:42

distributed resources affect the revenue that  flows into the utility, and this can get pretty  

10:47

contentious. The rates a customer pays for  electricity cover a lot of different costs,  

10:52

many of which don’t really evaporate on a  kilowatt-per-kilowatt basis if you remove  

10:57

that demand from the grid. Fixed costs like  maintenance of infrastructure still come due,  

11:02

even if that infrastructure is being used at a  lower capacity on sunny days. With net metering,  

11:08

it gets even more complicated to figure out  how much that power injected into the grid is  

11:13

really saving, not to mention how those savings  should be distributed across the customer base.

11:19

And, these challenges are only becoming more  immediate. Hawaii’s Clean Energy Initiative,  

11:24

launched in 2008, set a goal of meeting  70 percent of its energy needs through  

11:29

renewables and increased efficiencies by 2030.  In 2014, they doubled down on the commitment,  

11:35

setting a goal of completely eliminating fossil  fuel use by 2045. That would take them from one  

11:41

of the most fossil-fuel-dependent states in  the US to the most energy-independent. And,  

11:47

they’ve taken some big steps toward that goal.  Renewable generation has gone from less than  

11:52

10% to about 25% of the total already, and a  host of policies have been changed to create  

11:59

more opportunities for renewables on the  grid. Solar water heaters are now required  

12:03

for most new homes. Rebates are available for  solar installations. The only coal-fired plant  

12:10

in the state was controversially shut down  in 2022. And, there is a big list of solar,  

12:16

battery storage, and biofuel turbine projects  expected to come online in the near future.

12:22

For better or worse, Hawaii has become a  full-scale test bed for renewables and the  

12:26

challenges involved as they become a larger and  larger part of the grid. Many consider natural gas  

12:32

to be a bridge fuel to renewables, a firm resource  that is generally cheaper, cleaner, and often more  

12:38

stable in price than other fossil fuels. But  Hawaii is hoping to leapfrog the bridge. For  

12:44

the climate and their own energy security, they’ve  gone all in on renewables, making them a leader in  

12:49

the world, but also forcing them to work out some  of the bugs that inevitably arise when there’s no  

12:55

one ahead of you to work them out first. There  are some really cool innovations on the horizon  

12:59

as Hawaii grows closer to its goal. Smart grid  technologies will add sensors and communications  

13:05

tools to automate fault detection, recovery,  and restoration, and enable power to flow more  

13:11

efficiently across distributed resources. Hawaiian  Electric is also testing out time-of-use rates to  

13:17

encourage customers to shift their power use to  off-peak hours, hopefully smoothing out demands  

13:22

and reducing the need for expensive generators  that only get used for a few hours per day.

13:27

That idea really underscores the significant  challenge Hawaii faces in keeping its grids  

13:32

operating. Improvements and capacity upgrades  help everyone, but they cost everyone too,  

13:38

and they cost more for every additional  increment of uptime. There’s no reliability menu,  

13:43

and kilowatt-hours don’t come a la carte.  If you’re a self-sufficient minimalist or  

13:48

frequent nomad who isn’t bothered by the idea  of intermittent power, you can’t pay a cheaper  

13:53

rate for less dependable service. And if you use  a powered medical device or work a high-powered,  

13:59

always-connected job at home, you can’t pay  extra for more reliability. In many ways,  

14:05

Hawaiians are all in it together.

14:08

Drawing that  line between what’s worth the investment and  

14:11

what’s just gilding the electric lily is tough  already with such a diverse array of needs  

14:16

and opinions. Doing it on such a small scale,  multiplied by several islands, and with such a  

14:21

quickly growing portfolio of renewable energy  sources only magnifies the challenge. But it  

14:27

also creates opportunities for some really cool  engineering to pave the way for a more resilient,  

14:33

secure, and flexible energy future, not just for  Hawaii, but hopefully all the rest of us too.

14:40

If there’s one thing I learned from researching  and talking to people for this video, it’s that  

14:44

Hawaiians care a lot about how their state  is portrayed in the media. There’s a lot of  

14:49

complexity in the history and culture, and it’s  easy to miss out on important context if you’re  

14:54

not from there, and I’m not. And that happens  a lot for me, actually, even for topics you  

14:58

think would be strictly about the science  and engineering. Here’s just one example:

15:02

The private Odysseus lander (kind of)  successfully landed on the moon a few  

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weeks ago. There’s not a lot of politics in  a story like this, but if you look closely,  

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you can see it through slightly different lenses.  More than 289 news outlets covered it. Of these  

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289 news outlets, 35% lean left and 20% lean  right. And, while the headlines themselves are  

15:23

relatively similar across the political spectrum,  the articles themselves are a little different.  

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Right-leaning news outlets tended to focus  on the private sector aspect of the mission,  

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while left-leaning outlets ascribed more of the  achievement toward the partnership with NASA.

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With today’s sponsor, Ground News, it’s  easy to pick out these little details  

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and rise above the biases that are inherent  in lots of media sources. For every story,  

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you get a quick visual breakdown of the political  biases, factuality ratings, and ownership of the  

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sources. Everything’s in one place, so it’s easy  to compare multiple articles and make sure you  

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have a well-rounded understanding of the story.  For the Odysseus story, 49% of the reporting  

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outlets are owned by Media Conglomerates. One of  my favorite features is the Blindspot Feed, which  

16:09

shows you stories that are mostly reported by  one side of the political spectrum or the other.

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I don’t think we’ll ever get  away from biases in reporting,  

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but reading the same story from different  angles gives me context and insights that  

16:21

would be harder to come by just using my  typical sources. Ground News makes me feel  

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more confident that I’m not living in a bubble  controlled by algorithms that only try to show  

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me what I want to see. And they’re offering a  huge discount right now if you use my link in  

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the description. Subscribe to get a more  transparent media landscape using my link  

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ground dot news slash practicalengineering  for 30% off the Vantage subscription. That  

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link is in the description. Thank you for  watching, and let me know what you think!

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