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Smart Batteries for Smart Buildings

02/24/2016

Fortune 500 companies and small businesses alike are looking for new ways to cut high energy costs and manage their energy usage to better serve their business’s bottom line. Many of these companies are pursuing solutions that pair intelligent software with energy storage for their ability to produce automated, no-hassle energy savings. Companies as diverse as Whole Foods, Adobe, Reliance Steel, and InterContinental Hotels are reaping the benefits of storage. Over the past two years, more than 400 energy storage systems have been installed in buildings throughout California, with 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies already using storage and another 20 percent actively pursuing it.

So where does the sudden interest in energy storage derive from?

Batteries have been around for a long time, but thanks to a variety of influences –such as new incentives, smarter software and cheaper batteries – energy storage is now a viable and cost-effective way to increase property value and lower operating costs in several regions.

The primary way energy storage adds value today is through automated peak demand reduction. Charges associated with peak demand, often called demand charges, are major line items on commercial electric bills calculated based on the amount of energy consumed during brief periods of high energy usage. For most businesses, demand costs account for between 30 and 50 percent of annual electricity bills, with some businesses incurring demand charges that amount to more than half the total electricity spend. What's more, demand charges are on the rise--up an average of 11 percent each year in California alone.

Energy storage provides the flexibility to reduce consumption during peak usage times and purchase electricity at times when costs are lower, making it an increasingly important asset for the next generation of smart buildings.

Keep up with smart building technologies without any extra effort

Highly intelligent energy storage systems use real-time data and predictive algorithms to learn energy patterns and direct stored energy, reducing costs automatically. The system requires no involvement from the building staff, training, maintenance or capital spend – freeing up time and money for other activities.

Future-proof buildings, increase property value

Unlike energy efficiency, solar and other energy saving methodologies, storage systems specifically target peak demand costs. With demand charges on the rise, there are few solutions, aside from energy storage, that can target this portion of electricity bills without requiring extra staff time and manual effort. By lowering consumption during high usage periods, storage is able to both protect against rising demand rates and guarantee persistent savings over time. As a result, buildings have experienced increasing Net Operating Incomes and improved property values. Storage can also position property owners to earn additional revenue by leasing space for a storage system that lowers costs for tenants or by “selling” excess battery capacity to utilities to help balance the grid.  

Empower building managers, enhance building performance 

Intelligent energy storage solutions are powered by real-time monitoring devices and predictive algorithms that tell the storage system when to charge and deploy. Some storage providers have incorporated this data into customer-facing software interfaces that provide complete transparency into the storage system’s performance, along with real-time visibility into a building or building portfolio’s energy use and costs. This can be a powerful tool to help building managers identify hidden electricity wastes, remotely monitor operations, track accrued costs, and predict future bills.

Asset managers, building owners and site operators who seek to best serve their clients’ interests and future-proof their investments from increased cost-risk can benefit from energy storage. In California, New York, and Hawaii, where strong incentives are currently in place, now is the best time to act. As costs continue dropping and more utilities across the country begin utilizing distribute storage assets for grid support, new markets will continue opening for energy storage.

About the Author

Andrea Sanders is the marketing specialist for Stem, Inc. Stem, a leading provider of intelligent energy storage, combines big data, predictive analytics and energy storage to simultaneously reduce electricity costs for businesses and in aggregate, deliver services to the grid. Stem’s software learns a customer’s unique energy profile to maximize savings and displays real-time and predicted energy use alongside actionable recommendations. When aggregated, Stem’s customer-sited storage network offers flexible, cost-competitive capacity to the grid.

 
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