How does a utility increase the amount of wind energy powering homes without putting up more turbines? You make sure every watt generated – or close to it – makes its way onto the grid. (See related quiz: “What You Don’t Know About Wind Energy.”)

That’s what Maui Electric Company said [PDF] it’s doing, announcing changes in its use and integration of wind power that are allowing it to use about 91 percent of available wind energy compared to an estimated 72 percent prior to making the changes.

“The increased use of wind energy results in estimated savings of more than $22 per year for a typical Maui residential electric bill,” the company said. “With additional changes, Maui Electric expects to increase the amount of wind energy used to roughly as much as 95 to 98 percent, which could save a typical residential customer another $7 to $10 per year.” (See related post: “Federal Study Highlights Eagles Deaths at Wind Farms.”)

Wind is offering cost savings around the country, but Hawaii is particularly ripe for its contribution because the state has the highest electricity rates in the nation – a whopping 37 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to a recent EIA Electric Power Monthly (see page 122). That’s a result of the state getting about three-quarters of its electricity from imported petroleum.

Maui Electric outlined the moves it has made to take greater advantage of the wind power that’s already being produced:

To increase the use of wind power, Maui Electric said it has:

  • modified some of its generator control systems;
  • reduced the use of the four generating units at the Kahului power plant;
  • and fully incorporated the battery energy storage system at the Kaheawa Wind II wind farm.

Next, to integrate even more wind energy and improve the Maui system, Maui Electric said it is planning to:

  • deactivate two of the four generating units at the Kahului power plant in 2014;
  • retire all four Kahului generating units by 2019;
  • and modify the use of generating units at the Maalaea power plant.

—Pete Danko

This post originally appeared at EarthTechling and has been republished with permission.