Hawaiian Electric renewable energy engineer is named 2016 Solar Champion by Smart Electric Power Alliance

Release Date: 9/12/2016

Download PDF

HONOLULU, Sept. 12 -- Dora Nakafuji, director of renewable energy planning at Hawaiian Electric, is being honored as the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) Solar Champion for 2016 at an awards luncheon tomorrow during the Solar Power International conference in Las Vegas this week. 

Chosen by a seven-member panel of judges with diverse experience in the utility and solar industries, Nakafuji is being recognized for leadership in developing and deploying data-driven tools to maintain grid reliability as Hawaii continues to integrate high levels of solar onto its power grids, with a goal of 100 percent renewables by 2045.  

In six years at Hawaiian Electric, Nakafuji has leveraged more than $30 million of grants and more than 40 industry partners to develop unique tools for forecasting solar and wind output across the islands, creating interactive solar generation maps for use by engineers and customers alike, creating a Renewable Energy Watch to show real-time renewable energy input to the grid, and for other activities supporting integration of renewable energy on island grids.

"Nakafuji is one of our industry's unsung heroes," said Julia Hamm, SEPA president and CEO. "She and the team at Hawaiian Electric are doing the hard, behind-the-scenes technical work that is essential for integrating ever-larger amounts of solar on distribution lines, while maintaining grid reliability.  Along with other Solar Power Player winners this year, she is creating the models that will drive our industry forward, providing solutions that benefit customers and the grid." 

Smart Electric Power Alliance (formerly the Solar Electric Power Association) is an educational nonprofit working to facilitate the utility industry's transition to a clean energy future.  Now in their eighth year, the awards recognize electric utilities, their industry partners and individual utility leaders for creating programs embodying the innovation and collaboration that drives smart utility solar growth and expands access to distributed energy technologies. 

"Dora has consistently been at the forefront of Hawaiian Electric's renewable and solar integration programs, and has been a driving force for finding technical solutions for Hawaii's aggressive renewable target," said SEPA's 2015 Solar Champion, Carmine Tilghman, senior director of energy supply at Tucson Electric Power and one of this year's judges. "Having had the pleasure of meeting and working with her through technical groups, I can attest to Dora's leadership, innovative vision and passion for her work."  

"At Hawaiian Electric, we are proud of this honor for Dora," said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric vice president corporate planning & business development. "As our companies continue to lead the nation in integrating customers' rooftop solar and advance our state's goal of 100 percent renewable energy, we're pursuing innovative solutions to meet the challenge of this level of variable renewable energy.  Dora's work is an important part of this effort for our company and the industry." 

Nakafuji joined Hawaiian Electric in 2009, before the dramatic surge in rooftop solar panels that today has private rooftop solar systems installed or approved for one in three houses on Oahu.  Building a cross-disciplinary, collaborative team - and working with engineers at Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, and Hawaii Electric Light companies - she has been part of the effort to use a range of data-driven tools to maintain grid reliability while allowing more customers to add rooftop solar to their homes.

Nakafuji has a BS, MS, and PhD in aeronautical and mechanical engineering from the University of California, Davis.  For seven years before joining Hawaiian Electric, she was a research engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, focusing on development, integration and policy issues related to wind power and other renewable energy resources.

About SEPA

The Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) is an educational nonprofit working to facilitate the utility industry's transition to a clean energy future through education, research and collaboration. SEPA offers a range of research initiatives and resources, as well as conferences, educational events and professional networking opportunities. SEPA is co-founder and co-sponsor of Solar Power International, and winner of the Keystone Policy Center's 2016 Leadership in Energy Award. For more information, visit www.sepapower.org.