Building Management

How energy storage makes smart buildings leaner and greener

This is the fourth in a series of posts discussing the recent report from industry analyst Verdantix titled ‘Schneider Electric Innovates To Lower Cost Of Smart Buildings’. So far, we’ve looked at how Internet of Things (IoT), circuit-level intelligence, and cloud-based services are helping facility teams cost-effectively optimize maintenance, operational costs, and energy efficiency.

In this post, we’ll look at another exciting technology that’s gaining a foothold in buildings, campuses, hospitals, and factories. As noted by Verdantix, electrical energy storage helps organizations gain “greater control over energy costs [and] improvement in the reliability of energy use through periods of potential disruption, such as blackouts.” Energy storage can also help you get the most from onsite renewable energy generation.

According to a recent report from Navigant Research, energy storage-enabled applications are poised to disrupt energy markets as the distributed energy resources sector on both the utility and customer sides of the meter continue to create new opportunities. Navigant estimates that global C&I energy storage deployments will grow from 499.4 MW of capacity in 2016 to 9.1 GW in 2025.

Navigant Research ReportWhy is energy storage taking off so fast? Simple. As concerns about global warming and energy security continue to push the transition toward renewable energy, harnessing its full potential requires a way to store it. Storage equals flexibility.

On the smart grid, large scale wind and solar generation projects continue to pop up all over the globe. However, due to their intermittent nature, integrating these energy sources is a challenge because production doesn’t match consumption at any given time. To maintain balance, grid-level storage is being used to absorb and inject energy from and to the grid when needed. For this reason, new projects now often combine generation and storage, such as the massive 2 GW solar farm announced for Nevada, USA.

Similarly, energy storage is taking hold on the demand side of the grid as more and more organizations seek greater control of the cost and reliability of their power supply. This is spurring many consumers to become ‘prosumers’ by installing onsite energy generation, creating their own ‘microgrid’. While in the past this took the form of expensive and inefficient fossil-fuel based generators, photovoltaic panels and wind turbines are now the popular choice. As it is on the main grid, the benefits of this green, cost-effective energy source is only fully realized when it can be stored.

For example, it may be most economical to store the energy generated onsite and consume it when the cost of energy from the grid is highest. Also, as a grid blackout can have a huge financial impact on your business, you can use stored energy as a backup power supply to help critical loads and processes ride through a power disruption.

And the risk of grid blackouts is still very real in many regions. Population growth, urbanization, and the demands of the digital age are putting the grid under stress. To address this, many grid operators are considering the distributed energy assets of their customers as ‘virtual power plants’. Large consumers – or groups of smaller ones – are being remunerated for participating in demand response programs. To take full advantage, you need to be prepared to curtail load on request. One way is to use your stored energy, offsetting energy consumed from the grid.

In regions where energy providers offer variable energy pricing, an energy storage system can be dynamically managed in response to pricing signals. When prices are low during the night the storage system can be charged from the grid; when prices are high during peak hours of the day stored energy can be consumed. Some utilities may also allow renewable energy to be sold directly to the grid when it offers the biggest payback to you.

An energy storage system can support all of these opportunities. However, to optimize its operation, a storage system needs an intelligent control platform. Making the best decisions about when and how to store and consume energy needs data inputs from IoT devices throughout the smart building infrastructure, weather feeds, and the smart grid.

The EcoBlade energy storage system from Schneider Electric is a flexible, scalable solution for domestic, IT, industrial or commercial environments, and for the grid. Smart, connected battery modules can be used standalone or combined for larger applications. Ecoblade modules are integrated with the Cloud-based StruxureWare demand side energy management platform that collects and manages weather, operational, and grid data to optimize the performance of energy generation, storage, and consumption.

In the next and last post in this series, we’ll look at how smart buildings and microgrids are creating smart cities.

For more information on prosumer and microgrid trends, refer to the white papers ‘How Prosumers Leverage 4 Technologies for Greener, Reliable, Economical Energy’ and ‘Think Microgrid: A Discussion Guide for Policymakers, Regulators and End Users’.

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