• Building Retrofits
  • Building Energy Management
  • Energy Storage
  • Climate Change

Interest Is Rising in Energy Storage for Building Resilience

Sasha Wedekind
Aug 06, 2019

Smart Buildings

Recent extreme weather events and natural disasters, such as hurricanes Harvey and Irma, draw attention to a new use case in commercial building retrofits for building resilience and independence. Natural disasters are onlyexpected to grow in frequency and severity because of climate change. One of the key effects of these events are power outages, as seen in Puerto Rico. Building owners are taking note of this new threat and looking at energy storage and solar plus storage solutions for their building portfolios.

Regulatory bodies are recognizing the potential these technologies hold for resilience as well. On the heels of hurricanes Florence and Irma, South Carolina passed the Energy Freedom Act in May 2019, which supports solar and storage initiatives.

Developments in Building Technology Accelerate Transformation

Interest in resiliency from building owners is part of the larger trend playing out in the energy efficient buildings retrofit market. Consumers are starting to look for full system-level solutions to energy needs. Just 5 years ago single-point improvements, such as a window replacement, an HVAC upgrade, or a building automation system deployment were often the ceiling for energy efficiency retrofits. Now, developments in building technology are quickly accelerating a transformation toward buildingwide energy management approaches, including intelligent building software, onsite power generation, and storage. Moreover, energy efficiency use cases are fading to the background as building owners see value in occupant health, comfort, productivity, and other benefits of technology that originally developed for energy efficiency applications.

Building resilience is no exception, as energy storage has traditionally been installed in buildings for energy efficiency purposes. The primary goal behind these installations has been participation in peak demand management and time-of-use optimization. By storing energy when electricity is cheapest and using stored power when electricity is most expensive, storage systems help property managers alleviate utility challenges associated with the duck curve and achieve significant savings.

Storage Gives Building Managers Independence

More and more building owners are starting to think of this technology as an opportunity to increase building independence and continue operations in the face of power supply disruptions. This is especially critical for certain segments of the commercial and industrial market, such as medical facilities, food retail, gas stations, community spaces, and data centers. Usage of energy storage in this capacity requires different installation to make sure equipment is disconnected from the grid in the event of a disruption. Proper controls that can switch the system from a grid-connected mode to a backup mode are required for equipment to stay energized during an outage.

Vendors in energy efficiency retrofits (such as energy service companies, OEMs, and service providers) that recognize this trend and include storage and solar plus storage in product portfolios will likely be more successful in the changing energy efficiency market. Commercial facility managers no longer expect retrofit solutions to only upgrade HVAC system and improve the building's physical shell. They are looking for buildingwide approaches that go beyond energy efficiency to address full building energy needs and result in multiple improved outcomes including building resiliency and independence.