Microgrid is part of newly renovated New York City apartment complex

The recent completion of a $190 million refinancing and renovation project for an apartment complex in New York City includes a microgrid that consists of a solar array, a fuel cell and a lithium-ion battery.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York State Homes and Community Renewal on June 8 announced the completion of a refinancing and renovation project that will keep the 625-unit Marcus Garvey Apartments "affordable, viable and energy efficient for the next 40 years."

NYSERDA noted in a news release that improvements include bringing 80 vacant apartments back into service, upgrading security and electrical system across the complex, including installing renewable energy systems and making comprehensive apartment and common area renovations. The 32-building Marcus Garvey Apartments was constructed in 1974 and spans 10 city blocks.

The developer, L+M Development Partners, worked with Bright Power, Demand Energy, Bloom Energy, and Consolidated Edison's Brooklyn-Queens Neighborhood Program on the construction of a microgrid system at Marcus Garvey Apartments. NYSERDA said this is the first-ever microgrid installed at a middle-income housing community in New York City.

The microgrid system will reduce the property's power consumption by managing the generation and storage of renewable energy, NYSERDA noted.

It is made up of three components: a 400-kilowatt solar array, which is located on 21 rooftops; a 400-kW fuel cell; and a 300-kW/1.2 MWh lithium battery, which stores any excess energy generated by the solar panels and fuel cell "thus allowing it to be released as the project requires it," NYSERDA said in the news release.

The savings realized from the microgrid will be invested back into the property to allow for more social services and programs for residents.

Other energy-efficient retrofits included adding insulation, lighting upgrades, and a new heating system.

Financing details

Financing for the overall project came from public and private investment to meet the total development cost of $190 million.

New York State Homes and Community Renewal provided $90.8 million in tax-exempt bond financing and $5.3 million in an estimated annual allocation of tax credits.

The development also received $500,000 from the NYSERDA Multifamily Performance Program, which works with building owners to identify solutions for saving money by using energy more efficiently.

The solar array was supported with $462,862 in funding through NY-Sun, administered by NYSERDA, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $1 billion initiative to advance the scale-up of solar and move the state closer to having a sustainable, self-sufficient solar industry.

Project achieves several milestones

In April, Demand Energy, a subsidiary of Enel Green Power North America, said the project achieves several significant milestones for New York City's power grid.

Demand Energy said the project involves the first lithium-ion batteries approved for use in a behind-the-meter multi-family building application and that the project is the first renewable-energy-plus-storage microgrid in an affordable housing development.

In an April 11 news release, Gregg Patterson, president and CEO of Demand Energy, said "We've worked closely with the Fire Department and Department of Buildings in New York City to earn their approvals and achieve this milestone in storage deployment. Lithium-ion is a proven technology that offers multiple advantages over other chemistries, especially in urban installations."

Demand Energy said that the microgrid will be controlled by the company's distributed energy network operating system. "The system will reduce the property's power consumption by managing the generation and storage of renewable energy to save money through demand charge reduction. It will also provide resiliency during an outage, lower operational cost, deliver essential load relief for Con Edison, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Demand Energy said.

The company said that a key technical aspect of the project is the ability of the network operating system to ensure that the housing development self-consumes any energy it generates, without exporting to the grid. That capability, Demand Energy said, directly aligns with Con Edison's Brooklyn-Queens Demand Management requirements, which facilitated the interconnection and permitting process.

New York City in 2016 set an energy storage deployment target of 100 megawatt- hours by 2020, along with an expanded solar target of 1,000 megawatts by 2030, Demand Energy noted.

New York regulators approve utility's plan to export battery power to grid

The New York State Public Service Commission in May approved a tariff change for investor-owned Consolidated Edison that will let the utility export electricity stored in large batteries in New York City during demand-response events that are part of Con Edison's Brooklyn/Queens Demand Management Program.

The PSC said its May 18 order approving the tariff change for Con Edison is part of new actions the commission is taking to advance the goals of its Reforming the Energy Vision, or REV, program.

The May 18 order also "directs every utility in the state to study the impacts of allowing the export of battery storage systems to the grid under the existing Dynamic Load Management programs," the PSC said in a May 18 news release.

NYPA partners on several newly-funded microgrid projects

Meanwhile, the New York Power Authority will be a partner on several microgrid projects that received funding announced by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 23.

In his announcement, Cuomo detailed $11 million in funding for 11 microgrid projects across New York state as part of the second stage of the NY Prize Community Microgrid competition.