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Op-ed: Long Island's South Fork Could Switch From Centralized To Local Power

An Op-ed by Dirk van Ouwerkerk, Lead Partner for Anbaric Microgrid:

PSEG Long Island and the LIPA Board are about to make a historic decision on the South Fork bidding process. At stake is a contract for electricity resources that will keep the lights on and the air conditioners humming during hot summer days on the East End.

Eligible resources for the first time include not just traditional large power plants and transmission lines but local resources managed by intelligent software.

At a recent event on the East End organized by Renewable Energy Long Island, prominent speakers ranging from NYSERDA's President John Rhodes and PSEG Long Island's President and COO David Daly to East Hampton Supervisor Larry Cantwell laid out a future in which local resources such as controllable thermostats, solar energy, fuel cells, and wind power will become the main providers of energy. The event was a success as more than a hundred South Fork residents turned out to applaud their vision.

Renewable energy resources have made a remarkable journey in only a few years. Large-scale deployments have brought their costs down to the point where they are now competitive with traditional resources. But their smaller individual scale and fluctuation with weather patterns poses problems for the existing grid, or better: the old macrogrid imposes limitations on these new resources.

What is now needed even more than advocacy for individual energy technologies is a push for the paradigm shift from macro-grid to micro-grid. Only a locally controlled microgrid platform can harvest local resources efficiently and optimize them vis-à-vis the macrogrid in a way that we turn the ship to a fully renewable energy future.

To that end, we have proposed a microgrid controls platform that can serve a mix of local resources and meet the South Fork's peak demand in response to PSEG's request. Rather than propose one technology like solar or wind or demand management, our microgrid controls platform uses the strengths of each technology and combines them into a very reliable, "utility-grade" product.

What's more, the microgrid controls platform would provide the first controls layer for an abundant and organic growth of local resources in the future. As such, it provides a marriage of the old electric grid with a series of new resources and prepares a path for a fully sustainable energy supply.

Whether or not our proposal is accepted, this is an historic moment for the South Fork as it transitions from exclusive reliance on the old "macro-grid" to a new future with a dynamic and constantly evolving set of microgrids.

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