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Maximizing the Energy Potential of Commercial Buildings

| Wednesday July 13th, 2011 | 0 Comments

new energy storage systems add value to commercial buildingsPike Research is out with a new report that explores potential growth in the market for energy storage in commercial buildings, and the indication is that all the pieces are in place for growth. Having an uninterrupted energy supply has always been an issue for some sectors, for example in health care facilities and data centers, where flywheel technology or backup diesel generators provide emergency power in case of grid interruption. Now, new technologies are enabling more building owners to ensure a steady supply by storing energy on site.

This trend dovetails neatly with new alternative energy tech that provides building owners with the means to generate their own energy. One obvious example is the installation of rooftop solar panels, which in some cases can provide building owners with a revenue stream from electricity sales to the grid, aside from providing low-cost electricity to the site. In the future, building owners may be able to generate hydrogen from their solar installations, enabling them to produce renewable fuel for hydrogen fuel cells. For buildings that generate their own electricity, onsite energy storage could create increased opportunities to sell electricity back to the grid, as well as providing the security of an uninterrupted supply.

Growth in the Energy Storage Market

Pike identifies several factors that are contributing to growth in the energy storage market for commercial buildings. One is the trend toward energy efficient buildings. Building owners who are motivated to make a broad investment in efficiency would be attracted by the cost-effectiveness of storing energy during offpeak hours, in order to reduce high peak usage rates as well as to supply their own needs. Pike also cites the development of new smart grid technologies and the growth of onsite alternative energy installations.

Emerging Energy Storage Technologies

In addition to flywheel-based energy storage (also known as uninterruptible power supplies or UPS), Pike foresees growth in rooftop ice-based thermal energy storage systems. Basically, the building uses energy during off-peak periods to make ice, which then provides cooling power during peak daytime hours as well as the potential for heat energy recovery. One  caveat, though. As a cost reducer, the benefits of ice-based storage are clear. However, if lowering a building’s carbon footprint is the goal, then the source of energy to power the chillers needs to be taken into consideration.

The Better Buildings Initiative

As noted elsewhere in Triple Pundit, the Obama administration has been a strong advocate of partnering government expertise and resources with private companies to transition the nation’s economy to greater energy efficiency, and less reliance on fossil fuels. The Better Buildings Initiative, which just launched this year, could also play a key role in providing more building owners with models and toolkits for developing cost effective energy storage plans.

Image credit: New York City buildings by CJ Isherwood on flickr.com.


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