Why big buildings may be the salvation of energy storage


By: SGN Staff


By Jesse Berst


Energy storage is one of the most important, most exciting new technologies. But it needs a proving ground where new technologies can be tested and verified. Utilities are not the right place for such prototyping - they have too many constraints and too many other responsibilities.


But if you locate storage behind the meter, then you are not affected by utility rules and regulations. And if you install them in very large buildings, then you can test batteries large enough for grid purposes.


And that's precisely what's happening, as this story from Scientific American illustrates. In cities such as San Francisco and New York where power is costly, big buildings are installing batteries in their basements. Then they buy and store power at night when rates are low, and tap into the batteries during peak afternoons when prices are high.


Meanwhile, a startup called Urban Electric Power (UEP), with Con Edison, CUNY Energy Institute and NYSERDA, are collaborating to pilot a 100kW energy storage system at City College of New York. (See the piece below.) As with the examples cited by Scientific American, the college is using it to cut peak electricity use. These particular batteries use an advanced zinc anode technology that can handle many discharge cycles with great round trip efficiency.


Urban Electric Power Story

Urban Electric Power (UEP) is a Harlem NY-based clean energy spin-out company of the CUNY Energy Institute. We are commercializing the advanced zinc anode rechargeable battery technology first developed at the CUNY Energy Institute under the direction of distinguished professor of chemical engineering, Sanjoy Banerjee, Ph.D.  Professor Banerjee came to the City College of New York in 2008 to lead the CUNY Energy Institute and promote the advancement of environmentally and ecologically sustainable energy technologies with the potential to increase our domestic energy supply and reduce our carbon footprint. He focused on low-cost electricity storage as an area with significant growth potential.


Innovative design enabled the transformation of abundant, low-cost materials into extremely durable and reliable energy storage systems for a wide range of markets totaling over $35 billion today. For applications ranging from car batteries to power protection to grid-scale storage, the zinc anode batteries developed at the CUNY Energy Institute deliver electricity at the lowest cost per cycle. UEP’s innovative zinc anode rechargeable battery technologies were developed at the CUNY Energy Institute with approximately $9 million in support from industry and government sources, including NYSERDA, Con Edison, and the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). These affordable, sustainable energy storage systems are reliable, long-lived, and lead-free.


Urban Electric Power was incorporated in May 2012 to commercialize the CUNY Energy Institute’s innovations in zinc anode rechargeable batteries.  Our management team has significant experience bringing technologies from university labs to the consumer market. President and CEO Eric McFarland, PhD, MD, has recently served as a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara and CEO of Gas Reactive Technologies (GRT).  Vice President of Technology and Production, Alexander Couzis, PhD, has served as the Chair of the chemical engineering department at the City College of New York since 2008 and has held various industry positions at small start-up and large chemical companies, including Dexter and Glaxon-Smith-Kline. Vice President of Grid Storage Systems, Valerio De Angelis, PhD, was the founder and CEO of e-learning company MindFlash before joining the CUNY Energy Institute as Executive Director.


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