Solar combined with energy storage systems (solar+storage) can help protect vulnerable populations during power outages in multifamily affordable housing and provide an economic return to building owners, according to a new report by nonprofit Clean Energy Group.
The report, Resilience for Free: How Solar+Storage Could Protect Multifamily Affordable Housing from Power Outages at Little or No Net Cost, stresses the need to make vulnerable populations — including seniors, disabled people and low-income families — more power resilient in the face of natural disasters.
Three years ago this month, Superstorm Sandy knocked out power to over eight million people, stranding residents and threatening lives because of the lack of electricity needed to power critical services such as elevators, heating and cooling systems, communications and other life-supporting technologies.
The report uses project data for buildings in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. to examine the financial case for installing solar+storage systems to support critical common area loads in multifamily affordable housing.
With the right market structures and incentives, solar+storage systems can provide a positive economic return on par with energy efficiency or stand-alone solar, the report concludes. In some cases, the addition of batteries improves affordable housing project economics by generating significant electric bill savings through reducing utility demand charges and creating revenue by providing grid services.
Housing developers should seriously consider installing solar+storage technologies to protect residents from future power outages and to reduce their buildings’ overall operating expenses, the report suggests. States like New York, where the economics of solar+storage are the least favorable of the three cities studied, should consider new energy storage incentives to better protect their most vulnerable residents.
Speaking of energy storage news, some 24 office buildings in California will be powered in part by Tesla “Powerpack” battery systems, according to a recent announcement. Real estate firm The Irvine Company, which has properties throughout California, will install Tesla battery systems the size of five parking spaces. It is expected that these will reduce peak grid energy consumption across the company's entire portfolio by 25 percent.
In May, Tesla unveiled the “Powerpack” alongside the smaller “Powerall” system, which stores solar energy and allow residential customers to cache grid electricity from non-peak periods to use during peak times, saving money.