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Batteries Cut Energy Costs, Provide Backup During Blackouts

Marianne Schaefer in Bricks & Bucks on October 17, 2018

Ossining, New York State

Energy Storage

Monitoring building energy systems in real time (image courtesy of Integrated Storage Technologies).

Oct. 17, 2018

Storing energy in batteries is the future for buildings – and not just for those with solar panels on the roof. As technology advances and prices drop, batteries are being used to store energy produced by the sun, wind, combined heat and power (CHP) cogen systems, even electricity drawn straight from the grid. The advantages are two-fold: reduced energy bills and, in these times of increasingly violent weather, a way to keep a building running during a power outage

“Today we focus on a number of energy-storage applications that provide not only a financial incentive but also give the end user significant resiliency capabilities,” says Cory Mourer, founder and CEO of Brooklyn-based Integrated Storage Technologies

The company has just installed a lithium-ion battery system in a warehouse in Ossining, New York. “They do have solar, but it wasn’t working properly,” says Mourer. “In some places, systems are constrained from sending energy back to the grid. A battery storage system helps get the maximum financial advantages.” 

Another energy company, Bright Power, is now installing a three-part system at an affordable apartment building in the Bronx, feeding energy from solar panels and a CHP generator into storage batteries. Bright Power calls its system the Resilient Power Hub.

According to Mourer, storage batteries would benefit any multi-family building. “For instance, let’s say you have solar,” he says. “You’re producing all your power between 9 A.M. and 3 P.M., when everyone is at work. When you’re not using your power, you can put it directly into the batteries and use it later. That will lower your energy bill.” 

Even buildings without a sustainable source of energy can use batteries to avoid paying peak electricity rates at times of high demand, such as hot summer afternoons. “Demand charges make up a significant amount of any electricity bill,” says Mourer. “By shifting the electrical load from day to night – that’s called demand shifting – our customers pay mainly off-peak rates. It amounts to significant savings and lowers the carbon footprint of our customers.” 

Mourer says a battery storage system for a 100-unit co-op or condo will cost between $150,000 and $200,000, depending on location and site. The return on investment would be three to four years, and incentives are available. For instance, last week the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority announced that, beginning in November, it will award $40 million in grants to buildings that integrate solar arrays with battery storage, a step toward the state’s goal of generating half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. 

The technology – and economics – of battery storage are changing at a dizzying pace. “Batteries are declining sharply in price,” according to a recent article in the New York Times, “and are expected to become as common as solar panels in the next few years.”

It’s not difficult for a co-op or condo board to join the coming revolution. “If a building considers battery storage, we will run an analysis for a project,” Mourer says. “The process is very simple. We need to review the building’s energy-use profile and electricity bills. From there we’ll provide the building with a detailed proposal with recommended technologies, which includes a 10-year cash-flow analysis.” 

Mourer’s company is not affiliated with any specific battery brand. “Rather,” he says, “we focus on the analytics for sizing and engineering energy-storage systems. The secret in the sauce is our software and controls platform, which uses predictive analytics to maximize the economic efficiency of the building’s energy system. It’s a scalable and expandable controls platform, and it allows us to monitor energy systems, in real time, in buildings of any size.”

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