“Peak Shaving” & Energy Storage in New York City

Batteries Recharge Hopes of Energy Independence

Amber Plante for Zondits, September 3, 2015

Batteries can run toys, appliances, and even small cars. So, then, is the next logical step buildings? The answer is yes, according to Demand Energy, a Washington State-based company that recently installed and monitors lead-acid batteries in the Paramount Building in downtown Manhattan. Batteries may be an old technology, but they are getting a new lease on their usefulness through a green initiative that allows the batteries to charge at night and drain into the building during the day, lessening the building’s overall reliance on the electrical grid.

This technology has far-reaching implications on the future of electrical energy usage. Through the use of batteries that can recharge and offset energy consumption, a location’s carbon footprint can be reduced without impacting the residents’ normal usage. It can also help level out usage, making the building’s power needs easier to manage and, more importantly, predict. And, since it is cheaper in the grand scheme of things to install the recharging batteries than to revamp an entire grid to accommodate variable renewable energy (VRE)** sources such as wind and solar power, more companies are looking into Demand Energy as a possible solution to growing energy problems.

Although the technology is still being developed and perfected, the future looks bright.

How A Century-Old Technology Could Save The World

Think Progress, August 14, 2015. Image credit: SoFuegoProductions

Taking up about two parking spaces is a wall of boxes. They are simple lead-acid batteries, similar to what keeps the lights on in your car. But these batteries are linked together, connected to the building’s electricity system, and monitored in real time by a Washington-state based company, Demand Energy. Demand’s installation at the Paramount Building in midtown Manhattan is going to lower the building electricity bills and reduce its carbon footprint, even while it doesn’t reduce a single watt of use.

Every night, the batteries charge up. Every day, they run down, providing a small portion of the building’s energy and reducing the amount of power it takes off the grid. This cycle of charging during low-use times and discharging during high use times helps level out the Paramount’s electricity use.

It’s important to note that not all electricity is created equally. Renewable sources, such as wind and solar, don’t emit any greenhouse gases during power generation. Coal-burning and other fossil-fuel plants do, but even those plants emit different amounts of carbon dioxide depending on how they are used. Just like going 55 mph in a car is more efficient than going 100 mph, the more consistently we all use electricity, the less emissions we produce.

Apartment buildings like Paramount are perfect examples of demand. During the day, lights, elevators, and air conditioning are running. And for the past few years, on hot summer days, the local utility, ConEd, has asked building managers to dim the lobby lights, shut down some elevators, and kill air-conditioning in non-critical areas.

This summer, ConEd even expanded its incentive program for storage, and it is also adding its own storage. At a substation in Brooklyn, ConEd is installing a 1 megawatt (MW) battery that will discharge over the 12-hour peak in the neighborhood. For the utility, it’s cheaper and easier to put in a battery than to build out more infrastructure, especially in the crowded city.

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