NYC quietly moves to install large batteries on rooftops

A city agency now stands between a private company and a plan to build a giant lithium-ion power bank atop a Brooklyn building. If approved, the project would allow such a substation to be built on the roof of a residential building for the first time in the borough, the US, and possibly anywhere in the world.

But that doesn’t mean the residents of the building are happy with it.

Microgrid Networks, the for-profit company behind the plan, says it’s a viable place for battery storage — to be announced future Green energy – are extremely limited, and must be built on top of New Yorkers’ homes if the city is to meet its needs. climate goals, Tenants of a Williamsburg apartment property say that with the 18-battery bank set on top, they fear for their safety due to lithium-ion explosion risks, as well as risks to the building itself — specifically, if its structure is indeed several tons. can support on them.

As of 2020, Microgrid is working to store 2.5 MW of energy on top of 315 Berry St., a seven-story loft building three blocks from Domino Park and the East River. Similar battery banks – which recharge at night then sell energy to ConEd during heat waves and peak grid use – are currently on the roofs of Barclays Center and the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport, as well as a shopping mall and Installed on the back of the housing. Project in East New York. They’re necessary for New York City to meet Pole’s renewable energy goals and relieve aging infrastructure, but in a city notorious for overspending on real estate, private companies struggle to find landlords willing to host their batteries. Is doing. And residential building roofs are currently completely closed—for now.

for two years, the residents of 315 Berry St. have fought desperately not to become the first apartment building to sport the cutting-edge technology on its roof. However, they feel they are losing out, and suspect they will soon become a “guinea pig”, setting a precedent that will open the floodgates for similar batteries to be built on other residential rooftops.

315 Berry Street Microgrid Lithium Battery
315 The entrance to Berry’s Terrace.
Courtesy of 315 Berry Street Tenants

Olivia Silver, 25, who has lived at 315 Berry all her life, told the Post: “It’s more scary than frustrating – the prospect of living with a 400,000-pound battery on your head that could catch fire or explode at any moment.” Might.” (Microgrid estimates the equipment will weigh closer to 300,000 pounds.)

Page Stevenson, who lived in the building in 1989, said, “I’m scared for myself and my house and my building, and besides, I’m scared for the city.” “I think our tenant group is the last defense against this really scary new precedent of incorporating these into residential spaces. The technology is not safe,” Stevenson claimed.

The tenants’ group has discussed hiring a structural engineer or attorney to help fight the situation, but lack the funds or resources. They’re surprised that the FDNY signed off on it, given that grains of recent e-bike And Tesla battery fire, When the lithium ion phosphate batteries of the microgrid are the same, the order of magnitude is larger. (the company wrote in a presentation that “these batteries, unlike other lithium batteries, do not catch fire,” but other lithium ion phosphate batteries include at least one recent fatal explosion.) The building’s residents also note that their 49-unit, early-20th-century building is in no shape to carry much weight on its roof, as it is covered in cracks, floods frequently, has more than 25 open violations and one partial eviction order Since then a portion of the facade has fallen down into the now closed community garden.

315 Berry Street Microgrid Lithium Battery
Microgrid wants to install a slide promoting battery safety.
microgrid network
315 Berry Street Microgrid Lithium Battery
Flooding in the building – a frequent occurrence, residents told the Post.
Courtesy of 315 Berry Street Tenants
315 Berry Street Microgrid Lithium Battery
According to long time tenants the building is not in good condition.
Courtesy of 315 Berry Street Tenants

In response to the Post’s request for comment, an FDNY representative clarified that their approval of MicroGrid’s roof install plan was based on certain safeguards, after a full review, and was partly based on Lack of places to install batteries at ground level,

“It is the department’s understanding that this large installation will provide energy to the utility grid and is placed on the building’s roof due to the lack of available ground space in the community,” the FDNY told The Post.

The building’s landlord, Richard Herbst, told The Post that when Microgrid initially presented the plan to him saying yes was “a no brainer.” He added that, “although lithium-ion batteries have been in the news recently for causing fires,” his understanding is that microgrid batteries are different and “much safer.”

315 Berry Street Microgrid Lithium Battery
A tenant is standing in a stairway with visible damage.
Courtesy of 315 Berry Street Tenants
315 Berry Street Microgrid Lithium Battery
The sun shines through a crack in the building.
Courtesy of 315 Berry Street Tenants

Tim Dumbleton, chief operating officer of Microgrid – which has a pipeline of projects installing storage in the works, albeit not on residential rooftops – stressed that “the technical and safety issues of the project have been looked at extensively by multiple agencies and disagreed with the tenants’ claims about the company and its batteries. “I think it will be very difficult for this city to fulfill its mandate without residential establishments,” he told the Post, “without [enough] Energy storage You’d have to roll back the city electrification program, plans for offshore wind and upstate solar won’t work either. The city will be left with old gas and oil [infrastructure] for the foreseeable future.”

“It’s something that has a very clear way of allowing in New York City and [Department of Buildings] And the fire department has reviewed the installation and concluded it is safe,” said Rebecca Barr, MicroGrid’s director of project management.

The Standards and Appeal Board will next review the case in early January. There will be an opportunity for public comment before they decide whether the future of New York City’s electricity should be conducted from the rooftops of its homes or, say, elsewhere.

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