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As semiconductor industry grows so will the need for electricity, energy officials say

Micron Technology's rendering of the Clay megafabs
Micron Technology
Micron Technology's rendering of the Clay megafabs

Energy officials in a recent U.S. Senate hearing cautioned that there will be increased demand for electricity as the semiconductor industry grows.

Scott Gatzemeier, Corporate Vice President of Front End U.S. Expansion at Micron, said one of the reasons Micron chose central New York is there was a nuclear power plant 40 miles directly north of the facility with a direct line connection.

"It was one of the most reliable substations on the grid, when we are looking at where to select our site," Gatzemeier said. "So reliability of the system is incredibly important to semiconductor fabs because a small millisecond blip in our power would take down our factory for up to a week by interrupting processing."

He said those blips can result in millions of dollars of product loss — especially at large facilities similar to what is planned in Clay.

Mark Mills, Executive Director of the National Center for Energy Analytics, said efficiency does not solve the problem when you have net new demands from new innovation. The invention of the car led to the demand for gasoline, the electric car — the demand for batteries and the invention of the chip leads to the demand for energy.

"There are hundreds of new Microns brewing in the country," Mills said. "Five or 10 of them will succeed in a very few years. They will demand astonishing amounts of energy and we'll all act surprised. It's predictable that it will happen."

Mills said the demands will occur faster than they'll be able to get permits to build power plants or relicense hydro dams. That's what needs to be resolved Gatzemeier said.

"If we're unable to get the power either the generation or the transmission to the locations where we want to build, it'll be an opportunity missed for the United States," Gatzemeier said.

Micron committed to 100% renewable energy by 2025. Gatzemeier said if there is not more generation added onto the grid, the cost of energy will rise and create problems like availability and reliability issues — something that needs to be addressed so forms of energy like solar, wind and battery technology or geothermal and nuclear power can come online and be effective.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.