How does a city like New York tackle renewable energy storage?
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Can NYC reach its renewable energy storage goals? (Source: Getty)

Sustainable CUNY has published a roadmap through which they believe it is possible for New York City to reach its energy storage targets, utilising resilient solar technology. Resilient solar differs from traditional solar in that it can function during normal grid operations, but also when the electric grid is down. The model has been fitted to NYC, but is applicable to the rest of the New York market for solar technology, which is what the roadmap utilises to reach their targets.

NYSolar Smart DH Hub began their roadmap by first identifying roadblocks to the implementation of this solar system. The first is the fact that there is no incentive for resilient solar to provide grid services. The New York Independent System Operator’s program prevents distributed generators from being compensated for participating on the grid. There is also risk of policy changes – the incentives for solar in NYC are high, but no such incentives yet exist for storage. Moreover, facility managers and other possible beneficiaries are unaware that resilient solar is even a suitable replacement of diesel generators, nor that the cost of these facilities are sharply declining, becoming much more affordable.

Despite residential slowdown in 2016, solar power in New York has grown rapidly in recent years. 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, in particular, was an eye-opening experiencing with regards to solar technology. The solar targets for the state are 3 gigawatts, expected to be reached by 2023. As of March 2017, 871.75 megawatts have already been installed. New York City has a goal of 1 gigawatts, aimed at a 2030 completion. Further, the city has a 2020 goal of 100 megawatt hours. By January 2017, New York City was home to 14 completed electrochemical battery storage projects, which provide 1,400 kW.

Sustainable CUNY’s roadmap continues by discussing the logistics of the plan. From an economic perspective, resilient solar should appear more attractive than its traditional counterpart; these systems can delivery electricity and utility bill savings even outside of resiliency periods – that is, even when the grid is operational. The main barrier to entry is the high initial capital cost of the resilient solar/storage system, which is more expensive than traditional systems. This can be a problem as this system is to expected to be integrated.

However, DG Hubs remains optimistic concerning the policy that would affect these systems. They expect NYSERDA’s clean energy fund to help the public funding of energy storage projects, transitioning to budgets that are similar to other state programs, such as that of California. There, a self-generation incentive program is utilised successfully.

Currently, the New York Fire Department is working in collaboration with Consolidated Edison to develop plans and safety standards for these behind the meter systems. It is clear that the city anticipates the adoption of these types of energy infrastructure projects, however, the next step is identifying which route it takes, and whether that route is resilient solar. Many of the barriers are regulatory in nature, so simple regulation reform can pave the path more clearly.

DG Hubs and Sustainable CUNY plan to include a calculator that will quantify the cost-savings benefit of implementing a given resilient solar system in the next step of the roadmap. These calculations will be targeted at those groups who will bear the costs of these systems, primarily property insurance companies, commercial banks, and government agencies.

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