2017 Could Bring First Power Supply Defecits For East End

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PSEG Long Island will station two portable generators at power stations in Amagansett and Montauk next summer to handle anticipated shortages in the electricity supply—the first of several years of power supply deficits that are forecast on the South Fork.

PSEG has told local officials that scattered “brown-outs,” where the electrical supply is temporarily curtailed, could occur next summer if circumstances create a spike in demand, especially during a season when demand is already high.

PSEG will station the portable generators on tractor-trailers to deploy and add to the electrical supply should a contingency arise.

“They are forecasting an 8-megawatt shortage at peak demand next year,” said Gordian Raacke, director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a nonprofit renewable energy advocacy group. “They may not use them, but they have to be there for contingencies.”

Generally, peak power demand in the region comes late in the day on very hot summer days, when the largest number of both air conditioners and lights are drawing power.

Each of the portable generators is powered by compressed natural gas. The portable generators would be fired up only if a supply shortage were to arise, and otherwise they would be dormant.

A PSEG spokesperson said that the use of generators that run on compressed natural gas, instead of diesel fuel, is part of an effort by the power company to move toward more environmentally friendly generation sources.

The summer of 2017 is the first summer that power supply on the South Fork is forecast to fall short of supply capabilities. But it won’t be the last.

In 2018, the shortages in the current supply grid are forecast to jump to 18 megawatts, and they are expected to keep growing each year for more than the next decade. By 2030, if nothing in the power supply changes, the shortage would climb to 160 megawatts.

To help close the gap, the Long Island Power Authority and PSEG have proposed a number of initiatives to increase supply and contain growth in demand. LIPA is currently negotiating contracts with Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind to construct wind turbines 30 miles east of Montauk that could deliver up to 90 megawatts of energy to the South Fork. That project is unlikely to come online until 2021 or later by even the most optimistic time lines, however.

New solar farms, battery storage systems, and incentives toward more energy efficiency in commercial buildings and homes are also at the top of LIPA’s list of approaches to the problem in the short term.

Another option, though one that has been broadly opposed by local residents, would be bringing more power from other parts of Long Island where there are energy surpluses.

“Western Long Island has a surplus of power available, but they can’t deliver that power out here without major overhead transmission lines running west to east down the South Fork,” East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said of what LIPA and PSEG officials have told local officials. “That is an alternative that we understand has been considered by LIPA and PSEG—and one that, obviously, wouldn’t be well received locally. Fortunately, they appear to be choosing an alternative to fill some of that need, and a major effort at conservation, with the wind farm plans.”

The rest of Long Island is seeing declines in its demand for electricity thanks to more efficient air conditioning and lighting systems, power-saving building materials, and power generation from solar panels. But the East End, and the South Fork in particular, are seeing steep increases in electrical demand, thanks to continuing growth and redevelopment that triples or quadruples the size of existing homes.

“We don’t have a problem in February,” Mr. Cantwell said. “But in August, the air conditioning demand of a 15,000-square-foot home is enormous.”

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