Energy Storage in NYC: This is Not a Test

April 24, 2014
Energy storage got a high profile boost this week with the announcement of vanadium batteries being installed for New York City’s power-hungry transit system.

Energy storage got a high profile boost this week with the announcement of vanadium batteries being installed for New York City’s power-hungry transit system.

Called the CellCube, the 400-kW battery system is being housed atop the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 1.6 million square foot office building in downtown Manhattan. The batteries will store energy at night for use during peak periods or when the MTA needs back-up power.

“This is one of the most critical moments in our company’s history. This MTA site, the headquarter of New York transit and subway, is about as high profile a site as one could select in America and possibly the world,” said Bill Radvak, president & CEO of American Vanadium, which sells the CellCube.

The transit project is equally important for what it is not. The energy storage industry is heavily ensconced in its pilot phase, but the MTA installation is not a test.

“This is not about R&D or a bench level test. This is analyzing how it can directly help financially in the building,” he said.

The batteries are part of an automated demand response system developed for the building by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. They will store energy at night for use during peak periods to offset utility demand charges.

Energy Storage Workhorse

Vanadium batteries are ideal for this kind of use because they are workhorses, capable of as much as 12 hours of storage, Radvak said. The modular system serves loads from 10 kW to multi-megawatts.

Beyond saving money – and providing backup should the city see anything like SuperStorm Sandy again – the energy storage system offers promise of larger change to the grid.

New York City is notorious for its old energy infrastructure, some of which reportedly harkens nearly back to Thomas Edison’s time. By reducing peak load, the batteries could help Consolidated Edison avoid the billions of dollars in replacements and upgrades it faces in the coming years.

Energy storage also can help New York deal with its renewable energy quandary. Much of the state’s renewable energy – wind – is upstate. Meanwhile, much of its energy demand is downstate in the city. The city has complained in recent years about a disparity in renewable energy incentives. The population-dense city pays the most into funds collected for renewables, but upstate communities get the benefit.

The state has been working to reduce that disparity, but there is obviously no room for wind farms in New York City. And it’s neither quick nor easy to site transmission to deliver green energy to its borders. That leaves on-site solar as the likely play in New York City. Solar needs energy storage to achieve maximum efficiency, since the sun doesn’t always shine when energy is needed.

New York Microgrids

Energy storage also is seen as crucial to microgrids that use solar. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for development of 10 microgrids through a $40 million competition to make the grid more resilient. (See more about microgrids on our new LinkedIn group, Microgrid Knowledge.)

Manufactured by Gildemeister. the CellCube is already being used at more than 60 sites in Europe, Asia and Africa. In February, American Vanadium announced its first US project in Colorado, where the National Renewable Energy Laboratory installed the CellCube for testing at its facility in Golden.  American Vanadium says it is developing the only US vanadium mine, which is in Nevada.

The MTA project received funding from New York State Research and Development Authority and support from ConEdison and the Advanced Research Technology Center at Stony Brook.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

Twitter: @ElisaWood

LinkedIn: Elisa Wood

Facebook:  Microgrids

Types of Microgrids

Dec. 4, 2023
No two microgrids are the same. Check out two types of microgrids with these real-life case studies.

Mgk Dcf Wp Cover2 2023 01 09 10 34 33

Data Center Microgrids: Planning for Your Microgrid

The energy grid is increasingly vulnerable to outages thanks to aging infrastructure and the growing impact of climate change. Traditionally, data centers have turned to uninterruptible...