NYC transit authority installs huge on-site energy storage system

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New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority has installed three CellCube vanadium flow batteries at its lower Manhattan headquarters.

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New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority has installed a huge, on-site energy storage system on the 25th floor of its lower Manhattan headquarters, as part of an effort to cut its energy consumption by increasing its smarts and shaving peak electricity use.

The system, consisting of three CellCube vanadium flow batteries, will store energy from the grid during cheap off-hours rates and draw from the battery when rates are high, ensuring resiliency in case of grid disruptions.

CellCube-flow-battery
CellCube battery (cropped) courtesy of Gildemeister, via CleanTechnica

It will also complement the MTA’s certified Energy Star building that, CleanTechnica reports, is well established as a high profile test bed for other advanced energy efficiency and conservation strategies in its 1.6 million square feet of space.

The CellCube battery bank will be connected to an automated demand response system, developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory – another partner in the project. NREL is also slated to test a CellCube system in a solar-integrated microgrid.

By using them in the MTA building, New York City utility ConEdison – a partner in the project – is hoping to gain a better understanding of the potential for using distributed energy storage to balance loads and thus reduce the need to build more costly capacity and “poles and wires” as demand grows – something Australian utilities don’t seem to have cottoned on to yet.

CellCube batteries, made by German company Gildemeister, are mostly marketed as off-grid and remote renewable energy storage solutions, for integrating on site energy storage systems with solar and other renewables.

For example, the Nevada mining site of American Vanadium (the US company which markets CellCube in addition to sourcing its main component, vanadium), called the Gibellini Project, will source its power from a solar array and CellCube flow battery system.

But Bill Radvak, the president, CEO and director of American Vanadium says the kind of interest in energy storage shown by MTA and ConEdison represents “a real shift in mindset… (that) energy storage is no longer peripheral to energy systems.”

Radvak told CleanTechnica‘s Tina Casey this week that the advantage of using vanadium flow batteries in urban settings was that they were far more compact than lead-acid batteries, with the added benefit of being non-flammable and non-toxic.

“That’s the real significance of the MTA project,” says Casey: “if you can economically store a significant amount of energy on the 25th floor of a skyscraper, you can do it just about anywhere.”

As for the batteries comparative advantages over the “energy storage gold standard” lithium-ion, Radvak notes that vanadium flow batteries are highly durable, with minimal degradation of the electrode resulting in a battery with no loss of capacity over a 20-years-or-more lifespan.

Aside from MTA, American Vandium, and ConEd, other partners in the project include the New York State Research and Development Authority, the New York City Transit Office of Strategic Innovation and Technology, and the Advanced Research Technology Center (AERTC) at Stony Brook.

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