How a big battery in a big building's basement brings big savings

Mon, 2013-06-10 11:24 -- Jesse Berst

Energy storage is one of the most important, most exciting new technologies. And big cities are becoming the proving grounds for the latest breakthroughs, as this story from Scientific American illustrates. One secret: Putting the batteries "behind the meter" where they are not affected by utility rules and regulations. In cities such as San Francisco and New York where power is costly, big buildings are installing batteries in their basements. Then they buy and store power at night when rates are low, and tap into the batteries during peak afternoons when prices are high. -- Jesse Berst


Owners of the 58-story luxury apartment building Barclay Tower in New York City installed a two-megawatt-hour battery in its basement last fall, according to the Scientific American (SA) article by Martin LaMonica. He says the installation looks like a few rows of commercial refrigerators.

But it's what the battery has done in terms of energy savings that has Glenwood Management sold.

Because it supplies about half the 550-kilowatt peak load in the high-rise's common areas for a few hours, the battery is saving thousands of dollars per month. Glenwood Management plans to install similar systems three more commercial buildings this year, SA reports

Across the country, owners of the historic Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco also installed a refrigerator-size battery and are also seeing such impressive results that they've ordered even bigger batteries for 16 other hotel properties in California, according to SA.

“Energy storage in a city makes a lot of sense because cities are where the loads are, and those loads go up and down,” Haresh Kamath, program manager for energy storage at the Electric Power Research Institute told SA. “You could accommodate those shifting loads by having more power generation in the city, but it’s expensive and you’d need to tolerate the emissions, the noise and bringing fuel in.”

Jesse Berst is the founding Chairman of the Smart Cities Council. Click to subscribe to SmartCitiesNow, the weekly newsletter highlighting smart city trends, technologies and techniques.