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State moves to shore up Oahu's electrical grid

By Audrey McAvoy / Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 05:52 p.m. HST, Feb 07, 2014

State civil defense officials said Friday they're launching a project to improve the security and resiliency of Oahu's electrical grid.

The state Department of Defense will work with Hawaiian Electric, IBM, U.S. Pacific Command and other entities on a study exploring options.

"Essentially, this effort will ultimately be focused on building a more secure grid for Hawaiian Electric customers, while ensuring the most reliable power sources," Maj. Gen. Darryll Wong, the state adjutant general and director of state civil defense, said in a statement.

Researchers will analyze weather patterns to better understand how cloudy days and lack of wind will affect the power supply. This is becoming more important as the island generates more electricity with solar panels and wind turbines.

They'll also strive to understand how to better protect the grid from attacks like one that hit Silicon Valley one day after the Boston Marathon bombings.

In that incident south of San Jose, unidentified individuals fired shots into a power plant substation, damaging at least five transformers and causing an oil leak. They also cut AT&T fiber-optic cables, temporarily knocking out phone service, including 911 lines.

Former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Jon Wellinghoff earlier this week described the attack as an act of terrorism, but the FBI has said it's found no indications to back that up. The FBI is investigating the incident.

The vulnerability of Oahu's electrical grid was highlighted when the entire island lost power after a magnitude-6.7 earthquake struck off the Big Island in 2006.

Oahu's power system became overloaded and completely shut down in the 20 minutes after the quake. The island was completely without electricity for 4 1/2 hours. Power wasn't fully restored until the following day.

A lightning strike triggered another islandwide outage three years later. Some neighborhoods were left without power for 12 hours that time.

The Pacific Disaster Center, which is managed by the University of Hawaii, will also work on the study.

The participants aim to have preliminary results of their study in May.

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awahana wrote:
Thank god someone besides HECO is taking control of our house of cards electrical grid.
on February 7,2014 | 06:47PM
Skyler wrote:
Wish SAd had a 'like' button. 1
on February 7,2014 | 07:24PM
kekelaward wrote:
Probably one of the most unused parts of the entire website.
on February 8,2014 | 10:00AM
localguy wrote:
awahana - Actually we have the blind leading the blind. State bureaucrats have a proven track record of utter failure when it comes to doing anything on time, under budget, to standard.
on February 7,2014 | 09:50PM
kekelaward wrote:
The State???? Watch what you wish for.
on February 8,2014 | 09:59AM
harley1 wrote:
sounds redundant. It's not like the PUC did not order a study of what happened after the 2 blackouts. Maybe the state should start there. shortcomings were found and changes were made. It doesn't appear anyone in the state government has much expertise in anything, thus the turning to outside agencies. They will soon realize that island grids are unlike mainland or european interconnected grids and the pv penetration here is writing the book on what to do for the rest of the world to accommodate it.
on February 7,2014 | 07:46PM
localguy wrote:
Remember how after the earthquake shut down HECO, a report uncovered HECO was responsible for their collapse. Equipment not up to date, failure to install a rapid start system, and more. Quakes like that one are common in California, power stays on. HECO would do well to coordinate moving more lines underground in conjunction with major street work projects. Underground lines are far better during storms, high winds. Not to mention the cheap wooden poles HECO uses, termite fodder. Okinawa, yearly target of typhoons, uses reinforced steel poles capable of withstanding gale force winds. HECO poles shatter at the slightest breeze, a domino effect to take down multiple poles.
on February 7,2014 | 09:49PM
HanabataDays wrote:
Just watch, they going come back and tell us "Whoops, gotta put one nother line up Wa`ahila!
on February 8,2014 | 03:59AM
tutulois wrote:
Yes, and it helps that Oahu's big power plant is in a tsunami zone...
on February 8,2014 | 04:03AM
huponews wrote:
Yes, we need an outside of Hawaii company to compete with Heco.....did you ever hear them wanting to up grade the grids on Oahu? No, because Heco, is looking out for there own. Solar cuts into their profits so they slow the process.....everybody is on to them. We do need another competitor in the future. Same goes with Maui electric, who is racking in the profits with no explanation on power outages on Molokai.
on February 8,2014 | 04:48AM
Ratrase wrote:
There is no competition in electrical generation. Just like cable TV.
on February 8,2014 | 05:24AM
harley1 wrote:
competition will not come cheap. You wanna pay even more? That's what will happen since it is such a high dollar capital investment business. Remember Kua Koa - wanted to buy HECO for $2 billion? Where do you think that they would be looking to recoup their investment from? Your wallet for starters!
on February 8,2014 | 05:43AM
Kuokoa wrote:
Yup, go ahead and brig in a mainland consulting company to tell HECO what to do. These guys have no idea that we in Hawaii have a unique set of circumstances. We cannot connect to anyother grid! Any and all so called "improvements" to the HECO grid will be paid for by the customers. That is a fact of law. Reduncancy will cost you twice as much. Hey, so what there is a power outage once every few years? We are remote and just have to live with it.
on February 8,2014 | 07:49AM
kekelaward wrote:
Way to keep that Hawaii is third world meme working!
on February 8,2014 | 10:02AM
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