Since Superstorm Sandy hit last October, the issue of energy independence and reliable advanced energy infrastructure has become a major concern for Long Island residents. Though Sandy highlighted the issue, it is nothing new; due to its unique geographic location, providing energy generated on Long Island to its many residents is a daunting task, and sourcing energy from elsewhere is expensive. Unfortunately, due to staggering debt from the defunct Shoreham nuclear facility, funding any new infrastructure projects will prove problematic for LIPA and for residents footing the bill; debt from Shoreham already increases LIPA bills by an estimated 15 percent.
The potential privatization of LIPA as proposed by Governor Cuomo means a likely restructuring of its debt, somewhat easing a large burden and lessening the threat to the long-term health of Long Island’s economy. Regardless, it will require a vast effort to improve our regional energy situation, with a role being played not only by LIPA, but by local universities, organizations, and technology companies.
Solar technology, while already providing meaningful long-term returns, can be improved upon so it may contribute more significantly towards energy independence. The solar farm at Brookhaven National Laboratory has a peak capacity of 32 megawatts and provides 44 Gigawatt-hours of energy to the Island per year, enough to power about .44% (4,500) of Long Island households; in order to power all of Long Island, the Solar Farm as it stands would have to be about 227 times larger than its current 200 acres.
Another problem facing solar energy as a viable power source is that no reliable method has been developed to store it. Currently, when solar energy is harvested using a solar farm, the energy must be utilized immediately. When solar energy is able to be stored, it may no longer be necessary to depend upon fossil fuels for base power loads.
Increasing the energy yield of solar technology and realizing a proper energy storage method requires an interdisciplinary effort; an effort currently underway at Stony Brook University’s Advanced Energy Research & Technology Center (AERTC).
AERTC is a new, state of the art interdisciplinary facility designed to promote the development of economically viable advanced and clean energy solutions. They host talented staff and students who work at the AERTC building, partnering with regional universities and companies to promote clean energy. AERTC is currently partnering with Graphene Laboratories, the New York Center for Advanced Technology (SensorCAT), and Lomiko Metals to develop commercially viable energy-storage applications using graphene — a 2D sheet of graphite with remarkable physical and electrical properties. Advanced energy storage solutions are vital for the success of solar energy and other clean technologies.
Funding much of Long Island’s clean energy initiatives is The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); NYSERDA is an organization unique to New York, which provides funding opportunities for entrepreneurs who are working with commercial energy solutions, such as the installation of solar panels. There is a growing worldwide energy-crisis, and NYSERDA is charged with helping fund those who are working to solve the crisis in our own New York State. Funding from NYSEDRA will assist New York — and Long Island — in being at the cutting edge of clean and long-term solutions to energy shortages.
Lead image: Long island via Shutterstock