Achieving true energy independence with your next microgrid

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Hanan Fishman of Alencon Systems explains why real energy independence means knowing the origin of the equipment in your microgrid.

energy independence

Hanan Fishman is the president of Alencon Systems

There are several cliches that seek to define power. Money is power. Knowledge is power. Votes are power. In the sense of physics, there is only one equation that matters and that is power over time is energy. As has been observed many times in the past decades and, of course, most recently in Ukraine, the ability to provide energy resources offers countries with those resources a great deal of power.

Beyond providing clean power, renewables-based microgrids offer us the opportunity to achieve greater energy independence by not relying on geopolitical rivals for our fuel source. However, to achieve true energy independence, we now need to look one step further — not just where the fuel comes from but rather where the equipment driving the microgrid is built. This is particularly critical as our military branches, such as the Army, announce their climate strategy. In the simplest of terms, it does us little good to swap imported oil for imported equipment like solar panels, batteries and power electronics. While such a change does have environmental benefits, it certainly does not move the needle on achieving energy independence.

If we need to rely too heavily on products produced by geopolitical and economic rivals like China to achieve our climate goals, we are basically exchanging one level of energy insecurity for another. The current global supply chain and logistics crises has laid bare the risks of relying on our economic rivals for critical energy infrastructure.

Therefore, it is critical you look carefully at where the equipment going into your next microgrid project is built.

It’s key that components like the DC:DC power electronics deployed in microgrid projects are built in US factories from components sourced largely from North American based suppliers. This approach offers a number of benefits to customers including higher product quality while offering intellectual property protection for both patented technology and trade secrets. This approach also assures a very high level of cybersecurity for interconnected products, a particularly critical feature for microgrids on military installations. At the same time, the US-made products not only support the creation of many manufacturing jobs in US facilities but in those of suppliers, be they a contract manufacturer in Ithaca, an extruder in Michigan or a sheet metal shop in New Jersey.

Hanan Fishman is president of Alencon Systems.

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  1. “It’s key that components like the DC:DC power electronics deployed in microgrid projects are built in US factories from components sourced largely from North American based suppliers.”

    This “contest” the World is having with China with solar PV panels, dumping panels on the World market and creating a single source glut of solar PV panels from one source is not the only problem coming from China. China seems to have four of the largest silicon foundries in the World. So, an intrinsic part of the supply chain for not only solar PV crystalline panels, but for wafers for ICs also is supplied by China. I would submit this is why the 201 tariffs put on materials from China failed to protect U.S. solar PV panel manufacturing, it also has constricted the flow of ready solar PV cells and modules for current and pending projects in the U.S. The U.S. needs its own silicon foundry(s) to supply the U.S. with around 50GW potential silicon cell wafers or a mix of wafers for cells and wafers for ICs. The in-border supply chain needs to be firmly in place before one can extricate themselves from cost and materials usury from another country.