Lorenzo Zemella

The Renewable Energy Distribution Problem

In order to hit New York’s renewable energy goals, such as shifting to 100% clean electricity by 2040 and reducing greenhouse gases 40% by 2030, we need to focus on the infrastructure and power delivery networks, just as much as renewable energy generation like solar and wind. The main issue with improving the utility and power distribution of cities is providing enough capacity for the peak load. Due to space and cost constraints, utility companies don’t design the electrical grid to handle the peak load across the full network at all times. Even with 100% renewable energy being distributed across the grid, the peak load problem not only remains, but gets worse.

To handle the peak loads, utility companies have installed a number of peaker plants distributed across cities and suburban areas. These plants need to be physically placed near customers, which means that dirty fossil fuel plants are very close to residences and commercial buildings where people live and work.

“Gas-fired peaker plants which generate infrequently, can account for more than a third of the state's daily power plant NOx emissions when they run.”

New York can greatly reduce greenhouse gasses by simply decommissioning these plants. Energy storage can completely replace these plants by storing the grid energy during off-peak hours when the grid has a majority of capacity unused, and distribute the energy back to the grid during the peak-hours. California is already years into this change. The reason being is that all of those locations have large amounts of outdoor space available for traditional, container sized, utility scale batteries. New York City, unfortunately, has significantly limited space and is way too expensive.

“New York wants to use clean energy technologies to help meet aggressive environmental goals. The proposed rules would give plant owners an option to meet the new standards in part by installing renewables or batteries.”

Novele’s fundamental goal is to improve the lives of residents and workers in cities. That’s why our flagship product line, Energy Board, was designed from the ground up for dense, urban environments. We don’t believe that cities should zone out areas for containers of energy storage, but use the free areas inside the buildings themselves. This takes the idea of a micro-grid to another level, making the building itself part of the energy infrastructure. Building owners, and even shorter term tenants, can participate in the shift to renewable energy beyond a power purchase agreement (buying power directly from a renewable energy company) and benefit from the added resiliency of backup power and profit from utility arbitrage and peak shaving.

“To reach the state's environmental goals, New York wants to deploy 9,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035, 6,000 MW of distributed solar by 2025 and 3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030, along with a range of other resources and programs.”

The only way to achieve these goals is to have a highly scalable commercial product. A city would need tens of thousands of container sized batteries to completely replace all the peaker plants. Where will they fit? Wouldn’t it be better use of land to plant more trees or build a fully resilient passive house (a building with ultra-low energy requirements)? Even for the profit focused real estate developer, that land can be developed as a multi-use building promoting a healthy environment for the tenants and office workers visiting it every day. Novele Energy Board is the perfect energy storage system for the dense, modern, and renewable city we all deserve.

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