Hawaii Natural Energy Institute


The Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) develops renewable energy resources across a broad range enabling technologies at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) was established in 1974 to coordinate and undertake the development of natural energy sources for Hawaii. In 2005, HNEI faculty developed a strategic plan which called for HNEI to be the UH and State focal point for multidisciplinary research and education on the energy supply for Hawaii.

The significance of HNEI’s contributions to the State was recognized by the Hawaii State Legislature which, in 2007, established HNEI in statute (ACT 253) and expanded its mandate to explicitly include coordination with state and federal agencies; and the demonstration and deployment of efficient end use technologies including those that address peak electric demand issues.

Univerisity of Hawaii logo

SOEST logo


Hawaii Natural Energy Institute


1680 East West Road, POST 109
Honolulu, HI 96822
Phone: +1-808-237-5050
Fax: +1-808-956-2336

Picture of SOEST building at Manoa Campus, Honolulu, Hawaii (Source: Dr. S. Cerri)

(Photo courtesy of Sara Cerri)

HNEI conducts research in several focus areas:

Alternative Fuels

Alternative fuels are essential for Hawaii to reduce its dependence on imported petroleum for both transportation and power generation. HNEI conducts research, testing and evaluation, and performs analysis, supporting the commercial development of alternative fuels. Current focus areas include biofuels and high value products derived from renewable resources and waste streams, hydrogen and solar fuels, and methane hydrates. HNEI is also supporting studies to assess the potential for use of LNG to meet Hawaii energy needs.

Renewable Power Generation

As a result of technological advances coupled with the high cost of electricity in Hawaii and generous federal and state incentives, deployment is growing rapidly across Hawaii. Specific HNEI activities include:

  • Photovoltaics – HNEI is conducting high-fidelity resource assessments and testing commercial and emerging solar technologies. The objectives are to characterize real-world performance of (Photovoltaic) PV technologies and systems in differing environments;
  • Ocean Energy – HNEI facilitates the development and deployment of wave energy and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) technologies.
    HNEI supports the Navy’s development of the nation’s first grid connected wave energy test site (WETS) at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, on Kaneohe Bay, to conduct independent analysis for wave energy conversion device systems performance, and associated environmental monitoring;
  • Wind Energy – HNEI is addressing issues associated with high penetration of intermittent wind on the electrical grid. HNEI has deployed five small-scale (1 kW) vertical-axis wind turbines that are being monitored to evaluate performance for distributed applications.

Energy Efficiency

HNEI’s objectives are to support the development and deployment of energy efficient buildings through research, testing and validation of related technologies, education and training, and project collaboration with private and public sector partners. Moreover, HNEI conducts analysis of design and performance enhancement technologies in Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) to reduce cost, along with modeling efforts to improve understanding of impacts on the marine ecosystem.

Fuel Cells and Batteries

HHNEI researchers conduct testing, modeling and demonstration of fuel cell and battery technologies to enhance performance and durability for commercial and defense applications.

Integrated Energy Systems

HNEI has an established research and technology assessment program in integrated energy and systems analysis of grid power technologies. Through this program, HNEI conducts essential research in areas of relevance to Hawaii and abroad:

  • Grid Systems Integration;
  • Energy Storage Systems;
  • Smart Grids;
  • Transportation.

HNEI goes beyond traditional academic research to play a significant role in managing public-private partnerships, conducting testing and evaluation, and supporting analysis for state energy policy and support

These functions are inter-related, and overlap by design, in order to maximize collaboration and leverage resources





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