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The Marcus Garvey Apartment complex in Brooklyn is an innovative microgrid project that combines renewable energy with battery storage and fuel cell. This system — designed, integrated, and controlled by Demand Energy — generates revenue and savings through demand charge reduction, capacity relief, and other grid services.


Award-Winning Microgrid in Brooklyn “REVolutionizes” the Electricity Market

The Marcus Garvey Apartment complex in Brooklyn is an innovative microgrid project that combines renewable energy with battery storage and fuel cell. This system — designed, integrated, and controlled by Demand Energy — generates revenue and savings through demand charge reduction, capacity relief, and other grid services.

Earlier this year, a first-of-its-kind microgrid was commissioned at the Marcus Garvey Apartment complex in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood in New York City. Like many microgrid projects, it combined renewable energy (in this case, solar PV) with battery storage, as well as a fuel cell. It’s connected to the grid and provides multiple local benefits, including clean energy generation and resiliency. The system also generates revenue and savings through demand charge reduction, capacity relief, and other grid services.

The owners of the apartment complex, L+M Development Partners, have a guiding principle to develop quality affordable, mixed-income, and market rate housing while improving the neighborhoods in which they work. As with other properties in their portfolio, L+M also sought to make the development energy efficient and reduce its carbon footprint — and an innovative microgrid was the answer.

What makes this Brooklyn microgrid unique are these attributes:

  • First to use lithium-ion batteries in a behind-the-meter multi-family (625 units) complex in NYC
  • First renewable-energy-plus-storage microgrid in a low- to middle-income housing development
  • First solar + storage + fuel cell microgrid, optimized to manage multiple services and revenue streams
  • First microgrid deployed under Consolidated Edison’s Brooklyn-Queens Demand Management Program

The industry has taken notice. Earlier this month, the Marcus Garvey microgrid project won the prestigious ESNA Innovation Award for Distributed Storage, given at the annual Energy Storage North America conference.

The award was proudly accepted by a team from Demand Energy*, the company that designed and integrated the system and developed the control software that operates it. Its successful deployment and operation are a notable proof point of the value of intelligently designed and managed multi-resource microgrids, especially in grid-constrained areas.

Optimizing Benefits & Driving Revenue with Intelligent Software

This innovative microgrid consists of a 400 kW solar PV system and 400 kW fuel cell, supported by 300 kW / 1.2 MWh lithium-ion batteries and controlled by Demand Energy’s Distributed Energy Network Operating System (DEN.OSTM), which optimizes how these resources interact and perform. The system is reducing the property’s power consumption by managing the generation and storage of renewable energy to save money through demand charge reduction. It also provides resiliency during an outage, lowers operational cost, delivers essential load relief for Con Edison, and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The battery system stores solar energy during the midday period and supplies it to reduce peak loads between 8:00 pm and midnight. On days when loading is not critical, the microgrid can be used to reduce demand charges that are incurred based on Con Edison’s delivery rate. If there is a grid outage, the apartment complex’s management office and community center can be powered by the microgrid to provide local resiliency.

A key technical aspect of the project is the ability of DEN.OS to ensure that the housing development self-consumes any energy it generates, without exporting to the grid. That capability directly aligns with the utility’s Brooklyn-Queens Demand Management (BQDM) requirements, which facilitated the interconnection and permitting process.

After the Hurricane: Reimagining New York’s Electrical System

New York City is one of the most energy-intensive urban environments in the world. The peak summer loading of Con Edison’s service territory (NYC and Westchester County) approaches 14 GW of demand — almost a quarter of the peak demand in all of California. In addition, while nearly 60 percent of the state’s electricity is consumed in the New York City area, only 40 percent of it is generated there. This urban grid delivers energy primarily through an underground network, which makes managing and maintaining the system an expensive and challenging endeavor to continue to meet growing peak load.

For the first 100 years or so, utilities had their revenues tied to how much electricity a customer used. Based on a longstanding regulatory model, the greater the usage, the greater the revenue (and utility earnings). Utilities today face a long list of challenges — from aging infrastructure and stagnant demand growth to federal emissions standards and increased renewables penetration. But rather than tackle these issues separately, New York’s leadership decided to take a holistic view.

The result? Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative. REV seeks to solve one overarching problem at the heart of all: The traditional utility business model is not aligned with societal goals nor with the rapidly evolving, increasingly distributed, two-way electric grid.

REV came about in direct response to the reality of climate change and the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy. The state needed to develop a more resilient grid while finding ways to encourage third-party renewable energy developers to engage in a new grid operating model. Building out renewable and other distributed energy resources at the edge of the grid could help resolve the loss of power during extended outages — and address another major need: meeting peak power demands on critical days.

Aligning Customers, Businesses, & Society

Revenue decoupling was a key to the solution. Utilities now have incentives to help customers use less energy. But with REV, instead of having utilities passively resist solar and other distributed energy resources, REV aims to align utility business objectives with societal goals and let them harness the full potential of technologies coming onto the grid.

The REV vision is to integrate distributed resources into the grid to the point where they help manage the increasingly complex needs of New York’s power systems. Thanks to REV, Con Edison has been empowered to solve a growing demand problem in a less traditional but far more cost-effective way: by making the grid more efficient, creating a new model for earning returns.

The Marcus Garvey microgrid benefits the property owners and residents through enhanced resiliency, clean operation and energy savings. It provides benefits to the local utility — and indirectly to its ratepayers — and is compensated for them. It also aligns perfectly with the state’s vision of moving to a two-way distributed grid that serves longer-term energy goals.

New York City has long been a strong proponent of affordable housing. The city has also advocated for increased use of renewable energy and improved energy consumption and efficiency. This award-winning project combines both initiatives.

Thanks to Demand Energy’s intelligent storage management software, the Marcus Garvey microgrid provides the added benefits of energy security and resiliency, as well as revenue streams from grid services that enhance the return on investment. You can read more about the project by downloading the case study here.

*This article was kindly sponsored by Demand Energy.

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