Since 2006, Sustainable CUNY of the City University of New York (CUNY) has worked with stakeholders to address and reduce barriers to large-scale solar deployment, growing solar in NYC from less than 1 MW to 152 MW by June 2018, with an additional 64 MW in the approved pipeline. However, the majority of deployed solar is not equipped with smart inverters and storage capacity, leaving the city unable to harness this generated solar during emergencies and blackouts.
In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit NYC, causing widespread power loss across the city. Though 672 solar arrays on NYC rooftops sustained little or no damage during the storm, they were unable to supply critically needed power during the subsequent outage. About 6500 kWh that could have been used to power critical loads across the five boroughs were not generated when they were needed most. Some of CUNY’s facilities—which were utilized as emergency shelters for 2,700 of NYC’s 9,000 evacuees—faced fuel shortages that affected vehicles, backup generators, and buildings. While the capability exists to tap into this resource on a broad scale during an outage, key issues such as system design, costs, technology integration, incentive structure, codes, and regulations needed to be addressed.
Resilient solar PV on critical facilities such as emergency shelters and hospitals can provide alternative power and act as fuel multipliers to generators when fuel supply is uncertain or intermittent. Even the addition of solar-powered charging stations and resilient inverters with outlets could alleviate challenges during times of emergency. Following Hurricane Sandy, support strengthened for the development of resilient distributed generation (DG) and storage in NYC from various stakeholders, including new and existing solar customers. The city, however, lacked a template to implement this new infrastructure.
In 2013, Sustainable CUNY formed the Smart DG Hub to strategize pathways to a more resilient distributed energy system. During working meetings for local, regional, and federal agencies and key stakeholders, the group agreed that NYC would benefit from a coordinated focus on incorporating DG into emergency and resilience planning, and that there was a strong need to align policies and incentives to trigger the development of resilient PV. Further, the group recognized that storage systems could provide benefits such as peak shaving and load shifting, and support the grid in numerous other ways. Through Solar Market Pathways, Sustainable CUNY and its partners worked to streamline costs and create scalable, replicable models for communities across the U.S. The project team aimed to create guidelines for resilient PV codes, regulations, and technologies; develop a cost-reduction pathway and framework; and broaden the adoption of the framework on both the state and national level.
Stakeholder engagement is a fundamental component of Sustainable CUNY’s Solar Market Pathways project, building upon the project-based change management platform that Sustainable CUNY developed to remove barriers to broad scale solar adoption in NYC and NYS. This platform enables participants in any given project or initiative to take ownership of the outcomes by establishing the processes and the changes needed within their own arena for themselves. In this manner, stakeholders across departments, government agencies, utilities, labor organizations, or industry can find common ground, agree on implementation plans, and become agents of change. During the first year, the team focused heavily on bringing all of the necessary partners to the table, facilitating dialogue, and understanding potential challenges. To address the main challenges identified by these partners, the team formed four working groups: policy and legal, hardware technologies, software and communication technologies, and economics and finance. Throughout the project, stakeholders have participated in working group meetings, quarterly advisory board meetings, and special events such as a solar installer workshop and a distributed generation roundtable held at the request of the Fire Department of New York.
Sustainable CUNY created a set of reports and factsheets capturing and summarizing key issues and providing suggested solutions to installers, utilities, policymakers, and consumers with information about resilient hardware and design and the economics of solar+storage systems:
To make these fact sheets accessible to a wide audience, the Sustainable CUNY team provided a companion glossary to explain commonly used technical terms and provide a translation of some of the more technical aspects of the factsheets.
The team also developed The Energy Storage System Permitting and Interconnection Guide for NYC, which summarizes the permitting and interconnection process for valve-regulated lead-acid battery energy storage systems in NYC, outlining the various approvals required by municipal authorities including the Department of Building, the Fire Department of New York City, and Con Edison.
The Economic and Resiliency Impacts of PV and Storage on New York Critical Infrastructure report, written in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, provides private and public building managers, resilient PV industry professionals, and policymakers with a better understanding of the economic and resilience benefits of resilient PV. The report analyzes the technical and financial viability of solar+storage installation at three critical infrastructure sites in the city: a school that serves as part of a coast storm shelter system, a fire station that was flooded during Hurricane Sandy, and a NYC Housing Authority senior center that serves as a cooling center during emergencies. Using the REopt modeling platform, the team selected the optimal sizes and types of resilient power systems for each of the three sites.
Sustainable CUNY produced a series of case studies examining solar+storage from different perspectives:
One of the final deliverables under this project was a comprehensive “Storage 101” guide, which provides a baseline level of knowledge on energy storage to people new to the field. The information is based on lessons learned over the course of the project, laid out in an FAQ structure and broken out along the same topic categories described above (hardware, software, policy, and finance).
NREL and CUNY provide guidance on retrofitting existing solar PV with storage and how to reduce future costs by making new PV installations “storage ready.”
A guide for developers that walks them through the application process for getting LI battery projects approved for siting in NYC.
This fact sheet outlines resilient PV system designs and components, including a detailed battery comparison table with usage types, lifetime, costs, safety, and other characteristics.
A summary of the economic and finance considerations of solar+storage in NYC, including financing options, tax incentives, utility bill impacts and potential payment/revenue streams.
A resource for installers, utilities, policy makers, and consumers on how to add energy storage to an existing solar PV systems or make new PV systems “storage ready.”
Developed by the NY Solar Smart DG Hub, this glossary explains commonly used technical terms related to solar and battery storage.
The guide summarizes the permitting and interconnection process for valve-regulated lead-acid battery energy storage systems in NYC, outlining the approvals that must be obtained.
This report summarizes the findings of a 2015 survey of the NY solar industry regarding the costs, revenues, and other economic factors affecting solar and storage projects.
This report explores the economic and resilience benefits of solar+storage and analyzes the technical and financial viability of projects at three critical infrastructure sites in NYC.
A summary of the software product options to support resilient PV and microgrids with a focus on monitoring and controls software, including software capabilities of advanced inverters.
A new solar+storage microgrid will serve as a demonstration project, providing the project’s research partners with an opportunity to study the gaps between theory and implementation.
Solar+storage projects are being installed across NYC to support resilience hubs in neighborhoods where the flood risk is high and emergency shelter capacity is limited.
Highlights financing options for resilient solar for multifamily housing located in an area of grid congestion.
The Sustainable CUNY team conducted a survey of solar+storage market participants—including energy storage and solar developers, energy advisers, engineering consultants, environmental advocates, governmental agencies, and nonprofit organizations—in New York to better understand the impacts of soft costs on the overall costs of deploying solar+storage systems. The Summary of Results: Solar and Storage Cost Survey examines the results of this survey, which indicate the resilient solar market is likely to grow, though cost for solar+storage systems are significant and permitting is a key driver of soft costs.
Sustainable CUNY also explored quantifying energy resilience through in-depth interviews conducted by its Value of Resiliency Strategy Team. In 2017, this team spoke with experts in insurance, banking, and public policy in New York City to develop industry and policy guidelines recognizing the value of resilience created by solar+storage systems. The key findings and recommendations from the interviews were published in Value of Resiliency Survey Results, which explored:
As a culmination of their research and work with stakeholders, Sustainable CUNY released the New York City Resilient Solar Roadmap in March 2017. The roadmap is a five to seven year strategic plan for expanding the resilient solar PV market in NYC and opening up pathways to increase the integration of energy storage into NYC’s power grid. It identifies a series of strategies for addressing the key barriers to solar+storage in hardware, software, economics, and policy with the goal of increasing the deployment of resilient solar installations that can operate during power outages.
The NY Solar Map and Portal is a dynamic tool that estimates the solar potential of rooftops or land across all of NYS and helps New Yorkers realize their solar potential through detailed technical and economic calculations. The portal, which includes a layer showing current energy storage installations in the city, will also serve as a valuable tool for exploring storage options. A simple calculator tool will be included on the NY Solar Map to allow users to estimate battery storage and battery+PV project size and costs to meet their selected critical loads.
A separate map layer displays ideal locations for resilient PV installations based on where they could yield the most resilience benefits for the city. This Critical Facility Solar+ Evaluator shows critical facilities—including hospitals and food banks—as well as the location of underserved populations, grid constrained areas, and flood zones to help city planners, solar installers, emergency managers, utility planners, and others understand the potential target areas for solar+storage for emergency preparedness. By zooming in, users can explore the rooftop solar potential for specific facilities.
This roadmap identifies strategies and barriers to solar+storage related to hardware, software, economics and policy in order to increase resilient solar installations in NYC.
A key aspect of building a mature solar+storage market is training stakeholders, including installers, developers, policymakers, and permitting authorities. Through this project, Sustainable CUNY has provided training and learning opportunities for these key audiences. As part of the Solar Market Pathways project, Sustainable CUNY conducted eight online and in-person workshops focused on the NYC Resilient PV Roadmap. In March 2017 and 2018, Sustainable CUNY hosted its annual New York City Solar Installer Workshop to provide guidance on navigating local agencies and the processes for interconnection and permitting for solar+storage systems, which included opportunities to ask questions directly to agency representatives. Over 100 installers attended these day-long workshops.
Sustainable CUNY is also actively participating in public events, including various conferences and webinars, to share best practices and educate the wider installer and developer community. In 2018, Sustainable CUNY’s goal is to conduct four additional trainings for the installer community and five trainings for municipal and state code officials and policymakers across NYS to jumpstart the creation of clear permitting guidelines for local jurisdictions. These events will disseminate the project’s resources and policy information statewide to help the public and private sectors understand the factors involved in incorporating energy storage in resilience planning and to prepare for the growth of the energy storage market.