About Peter Asmus

Peter Asmus, president of Pathfinder Communications, is an internationally known expert on energy and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) matters.  He is also a journalist, community organizer, musician, photographer and poet.

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Contact Information:

Pathfinder Communications

PO Box 436

Stinson Beach, CA 94970

(415) 868-9866





Will California State Lawmakers Pull the Plug on Community Energy?

California is schizophrenic (or perhaps dyslectic).

On the one hand, recent energy storage mandates in the form of last year’s AB 2514 have created great opportunities to test out how advanced batteries can help mitigate the frequency and voltage issues associated with high penetrations of variable renewable energy. Utilities such as San Diego Gas & Electric have suggested these mandates plant the seeds for new microgrids building upon the utility’s success with the Borrego Springs project, which it recently announced would be expanded.

This year’s AB 2145, nicknamed by critics as the “Monopoly Protection Act,” would introduce a major kink in efforts for the San Francisco Bay Area to give local governments the authority to purchase bulk renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions. The target of the legislation is a policy vehicle pioneered in states such as Ohio and Massachusetts, but which has fanned the flames of controversy in California known as “community choice aggregation.”

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Can the Developing World Teach the Developed World New Tricks on Energy?

With utility push back on policies that have historically supported distributed renewable energy emerging as a global phenomenon, it might be wise for vendors in the space not to push the panic button, and instead look to emerging markets in the developing world for a reality check.

As utilities and states modify their traditional support for technologies such as solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, purveyors of hardware and software that helps integrate distributed renewables into power grids see increasing opportunity. The decline in generous feed-in tariffs for solar PV, for example, creates new opportunities for energy storage.

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Can Nanogrids Deliver on the Promise of a "Wise" Instead of Smart Grid?

The U.S. set a record in 2013 for billion dollar disasters, according to Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report. Yet the $41 billion in economic losses paled if compared against 2012, since there was a lack of mega disasters in 2013 on the scale of Hurricane Sandy ($65 billion in damage) o the drought of 2012 ($30 billion in damage.)

In terms of smart energy, these disasters, and related power outages and need for emergency energy services, are fueling interest in microgrids, not only in the U.S., but in the developing world. Yet, what if these microgrids, so dependent upon smart inverters, were to accelerate the creation of a new form of “dirty electricity,” pulsing electromagnetic fields that could grow even more intense as power sources and control technologies increase radio frequencies (RF)?

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Zombies & Doomsday Fears Fuel Microgrid Frenzy

Real weather events such as Hurricanes Sandy and Irene have resulted in Connecticut plowing a total of $18 million into microgrids strategically located throughout the state, with 9 microgrids now moving forward with construction. An additional $30 million was recently approved by state lawmakers there to be distributed over the next two years to augment this initial investment by the State of Connecticut for additional microgrids. Other East Coast states such as New York are considering similar moves as a response to extreme weather apparently linked to global climate change.

Interest in microgrids is also spreading to the Midwest, where it was announced in late July that 9 states would collaborate under the umbrella of the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) to pursue economic development and new jobs initiatives linked to microgrid components and systems, with an eye toward opportunities in key export markets.

Some of us with greying hair (or perhaps no hair at all) may remember the advent of bomb out shelters from the 1950s. As a pre-teen, I recall going down into one such chamber on the outskirts of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, marveling at all of the supplies stored up in this underground structure, including rows and rows of canned goods (and my first glimpse of a Playboy calendar). With the thawing of the Cold War, the bomb out shelter fad faded away, though I still wonder what happened to these underground bunkers.

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Was Edison Right About Direct Current (DC) Microgrids?

The fledgling electric utility companies that emerged after Thomas Edison opened his small Pearl Street, New York City power station in 1882 originally focused on direct current (DC) microgrids.  Edison envisioned that the electric utility industry would involve small firms generating DC power for individual businesses through these DC distribution networks.  By 1886, Edison’s firm had installed 58 DC microgrids and some 500 isolated DC lighting plants in the United States, Russia, Chile, and Australia.

Shortly thereafter, the first DC ship developed by the U.S. Navy also began operation in 1887. The 2 kilowatt ship used electricity for lighting instead of the common practice of oil lamps. This may have been the first electric ship in the world, though that is a topic of considerable debate, and the U.S. Navy is currently constructing a 78 MW DC ship under its DDG 1000 program. One could also consider this antique DC ship a microgrid, since it was not interconnected to any grid. A similar argument is used today by Boeing, which refers to satellites powered by solar photovoltaic (PV) panels as remote DC microgrids (and whose expertise is now being applied by the company for terrestrial microgrid applications.)

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