These Apartments’ Microgrid Is A Lesson In Urban Resilience

on July 30, 2018

In 2014, New York City’s energy utility, Consolidated Edison, realized was facing a looming problem. In just a matter of years, demand for power would outstrip what the electrical grid could provide. Especially in parts of Brooklyn and Queens where populations were once smaller and more spread out, ConEd’s energy systems were not designed to support and distribute large amounts of power, the need for which will only increase as climate change makes summers hotter and winters more unpredictable. This year, ConEd estimates that its substation in Brownsville, which serves parts of Brooklyn and Queens, will deal with an energy demand 69 megawatts beyond what it can safely provide.

The traditional fix for this quandary would just be to add another energy substation to the grid. But that would do little to curb fossil fuel dependency–a goal of both New York City and state–and it would replicate the same type of energy system that failed dramatically across the city during Superstorm Sandy, a climate event likely to occur again at some point in the region. And a new substation would cost around $1.2 billion to build.

So instead, ConEd put out a call for smaller-scale energy projects that could alleviate some of the demand from the struggling Brooklyn-Queens grid. The initiative, called Brooklyn-Queens Demand Management, asks commercial, residential, and industrial customers within the Brownsville substation’s area to propose ways to reduce their grid energy needs. To get the projects off the ground, ConEd set aside $200 million in funding.

While some of the projects involve upgrades like more efficient lighting and better building weatherization to cut energy costs, a microgrid project at the Marcus Garvey Village apartments, an affordable housing complex in Brownsville, Brooklyn, provides a model for how cities can integrate localized energy projects to boost affordability and create resiliency.

Last June, L&M Development Partners, which bought and renovated the Marcus Garvey Village apartments in 2014, unveiled its innovative microgrid system–the first for any multi-family residential development in New York City. The entire project contains 400 kilowatts of rooftop solar, a 400 kilowatt natural-gas fuel cell, and a battery system that can store up to 1,200 kilowatt-hours of energy.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsThese Apartments’ Microgrid Is A Lesson In Urban Resilience