America's Critical Infrastructure and Shift to Clean Energy a Matter of National Security?
How The Development of Local Inverter-Based Resources Has Become More Critical Than Ever.
At the heart of America's rapid transition toward renewable energy lie two unassuming heroes: High Power Converters and Inverters. These critical components, often collectively referred to as Inverter-Based Resources (IBRs), power a wide array of applications from solar and wind farms to battery energy storage systems (BESS), electric vehicle (EV) chargers, and support critical infrastructure.
High-Power Converters and Inverters are devices that modify electrical energy, transforming it from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) and vice versa. This process is pivotal for integrating renewable energy sources into the grid, managing stored energy, and even driving our electric vehicles. However, the key to fortifying grid resilience in order to support the electrification of our resources lies in the level of reliability with which these High-Power Converters and Inverters can operate.
As America’s commitment in shifting to a clean energy future continues to advance, IBR technology has taken a front seat in the renewables landscape - and an industry once considered as a mere function of larger equipment and infrastructure, has now become the fundamental link to successfully enabling a full rollout of green energy technology. Moreover, as the U.S. Federal Government has enabled the growth of this sector through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the critical role and relevance of IBRs will continue to increase. Inverters are integral to harnessing solar and wind energy, charging our increasing fleet of EVs, and driving propulsion inverters for trains. They power the electrolyzers that produce hydrogen and form the core of High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) systems, used for efficient long-distance power transmission. Static synchronous compensators (Statcom) and static VAR compensators (SVC) rely on this technology for maintaining grid stability and reliability.
However, the expansion of these technologies comes with its share of risks, and in particular, cybersecurity threats from foreign countries. The digital nature of these systems exposes them to potential cyberattacks, necessitating robust security measures and vigilance. On July 18th, a congressional hearing for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce took place to address the rising concerns of threats to the U.S. energy infrastructure. “[foreign manufacturers] are important producers of inverters being deployed nationwide across the United States. I think looking at supply chain risks, not just availability of critical products but the risks that [they] will exploit these products in order to conduct attacks on the grid” stated Paul Stockton, former Assistant Secretary of Defense and Chair of the Grid Resilience for National Security subcommittee of the Department of Energy's Electricity Advisory Committee.
It is apparent that rapid action to domesticize the design and manufacturing of High-Power Converters and Inverters is critical to mitigating these security risks, safeguarding the nation’s energy infrastructure, and reducing reliance on foreign technology. Historically, the design of these critical components has been dominated by foreign nations, making this a crucial step forward in gaining technological independence. “If we can secure those devices, we have an opportunity to transition to a stronger resilience strategy to defend the grid and make sure that we can counter the objectives of our future adversaries…[and they] cannot be intentionally mis-operated… or shut off at a whim” continues Stockton.
“Today’s announcement marks an important milestone in our journey toward a more secure energy sector to benefit all Americans,” said Puesh Kumar, Director of the DOE Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security. The Committee Hearing is an important step forward in fostering collaboration with government and domestic private sector experts regarding IBR security and resilience. “The innovation by the private sector is astonishing and much needed. We need to work together in order to achieve resilience, but absolutely the private sector is leaning very far forward in the development of new energy resources” noted by Stockton during his testimony at the hearing.
Companies such as AmePower, awardees of Florida’s Small Businesspersons of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration, are at the forefront of innovation of American Made High-Power Energy Converters and Inverters and were recently celebrated by President Biden for helping fuel America's shift to a clean-energy future. AmePower has made it their mission to develop cutting-edge inverter solutions that not only deliver exceptional performance and efficiency but also prioritize security and resilience with inverter technology that is 100% designed and manufactured in the USA and leverages local supply chains for production.
“For more than 20 years we have been creating jobs and investing in this key sector, which reaches far beyond producing products that are Buy America Compliant. It is about developing top-tier local talent with industry-leading expertise, it is about reliability, infrastructure and optimizing grid resilience, it is about a trusted supply chain, it is about Inverter-Based Resources that are “Designed and Made in the USA” – responded Luis E. Contreras, CEO and Founder of AmePower, located in Miami, Florida.
In addition to increased cybersecurity, engaging with U.S.-based companies for the design and manufacturing of IBRs produces vast economic impacts. A homegrown inverter and converter industry means a high-paying technical and engineering workforce, a bolstered manufacturing sector, and a swift, efficient technical support system that understands the technology and can quickly adapt when necessary. This not only strengthens the American economy but fosters trust in the durability and reliability of these critical resources.
By facilitating a shift to renewables through a national domestication strategy on High-Power Converters and Inverters, we enable a viable path to decarbonization and meeting 2030 emissions reduction targets. High-Power Converters and Inverters are at the epicenter of electrification and have a market reach into a wide variety of sectors affecting the daily lives of the American population – from transportation to defense, and even healthcare. The positive health impacts of the effects of resilient local IBR production extend from urban cityscapes to rural communities, with cleaner air leading to reduced health impacts associated with pollution.
High-Power Converters and Inverters, the unsung heroes of the green revolution, are far more than just technical components. They are vital players in the American narrative, intertwined with the nation's environmental, economic, health and national security goals. As the USA continues its march towards a sustainable future, the role of these IBRs in shaping a cleaner, greener, and more resilient nation becomes increasingly significant, and leaning local is paramount to success.
Learn more about state-of-the-art High-Power Energy Conversion solutions in the U.S.A at www.amepower.com.