Commercial Microgrid Stimulates Economic Development

March 16, 2014
This commercial microgrid case study is a prime example of how a microgrid can stimulate the economy for a region. It also shows how forward looking government agencies and technology providers can collaborate to help bring advanced economy businesses into a region by implementing smart energy strategies.

This commercial microgrid case study is a prime example of how a microgrid can stimulate the economy for a region. It also shows how forward looking government agencies and technology providers can collaborate to help bring advanced economy businesses into a region by implementing smart energy strategies.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) serves as New York City’s primary engine for economic development and job creation, and works to enhance the city’s business sectors by identifying, analyzing and addressing challenges faced by industries. New York City has over one million buildings, aging infrastructure, the second highest energy prices in the country and increasing demand for energy.

NYCEDC recognizes that New York City is well positioned to benefit from the proliferation of microgrid technologies. In order to demonstrate the viability of innovative energy management solutions, NYCEDC, in partnership with Consolidated Edison, developed a microgrid demonstration project at the Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT). This 97-acre site offers four million square feet of space for New York City industrial businesses and entrepreneurs. The facility once was a supply base for US Army troops overseas.

The microgrid system at BAT integrates three main components: 1) a 100-kW solar photovoltaic (PV) array, 2) a building management system (BMS) and 3) a 720-kWh battery for on-site energy storage capable of delivering 100 kW for four hours.

Funded in part by a grant from the US Department of Energy, the project demonstrates the benefits of onsite renewable energy generation coupled with energy storage and management systems for reducing peak demand energy use as well as demand response. Through integration with Viridity Energy’s V-Power software, the former base turned business park can respond to demand response events issued by Con Edison and alleviate constraints on the grid.

By implementing the project, analyzing the outcomes and sharing lessons learned, this smart grid demonstration project has the potential to support the growth of the energy storage, create local jobs and attract private investments in the development and widespread adoption of innovative microgrid technologies. These smart energy management system offer the potential to help the City of New York reach its sustainability and resiliency goals, including a 30 percent reduction in citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Application of Energy Storage

Considering the battery’s size and capabilities as well as the electric load profile at BAT, participation in demand response/capacity markets is the most financially optimal use of the battery. The building management system at BAT is integrated with Viridity Energy’s V-Power software, and controls the battery operation (i.e., discharging and charging as-needed for demand response events). The system is currently enrolled in demand response capacity markets and is capable of discharging 100 kW for four hours (400 kWh total).

Technology Providers
Energy Storage System
• Hitachi 720 kWh valve regulated lead acid (VRLA) battery with a
Princeton Power Systems 100 kW Inverter

Solar PV System
• Suntech 100-kW PV array
• Advanced Energy 100-kW Inverter

Building Management System
• Alerton BACtalk BMS for onsite battery management and building monitoring
• Viridity V-Power service for remote battery management and building monitoring

Three lessons learned from this microgrid project:
1) Financial – the key measures of the project’s impact are the energy savings and revenue streams generated through the PV production and participation in demand response programs. These savings and revenues are largely fixed based on a system’s total delivered power, which is independent of future reductions in capital costs or improvements in technology. Therefore, future systems modeled after BAT, but with newer technologies and built at lower costs, will yield stronger financial performances.

2) Technical – while battery chemistry options were limited at the onset of the project, energy storage technology is rapidly evolving, as are the regulations governing them. As of March 2014 revisions to fire codes now include a wider variety of battery chemistries. Although these new chemistries have not yet been approved for applications outside emergency power systems, it is likely that new regulations for advanced battery technologies will be adopted. This will allow future projects greater flexibility to select the battery that best matches the project site and requirements. With these advancements in technology, the cost of future battery systems could be substantially lower per unit of delivered energy.

3) Regulatory – additional design, construction and permitting measures required for interconnection, fire and building code approvals increased project costs and construction time. Ideal sites for future projects may be those that are already equipped with ventilation systems, safety measures and the enabling infrastructure that meet regulatory requirements for battery systems, and do not require significant and invasive structural modifications.

For a free PDF of this microgrid case study, plus details on the various stakeholders, permitting and interconnectivity hurdles visit Princeton Power Systems.

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