Of all the things you can run off a battery, the least likely suspect is a building. Watches? Sure. Phones? No problem. Cars? At a push we make it work… Buildings, however, are a whole other ball game, and generating enough power to light, heat, and cool a building from battery power alone seems somewhat unfathomable.
But using a battery to power a building doesn’t necessarily mean that’s its only power source, nor does it mean that it’s a back-up. It can serve as a nifty means to optimize energy costs to avoid paying more for energy during peak times.
The price of energy fluctuates. These fluctuations are dictated by when energy is most needed, and therefore most expensive. A building that uses a battery can store energy at off-peak times, to then use during the peak time – thus avoiding the higher costs charged by the energy supplier during the peak time.
Utilities charge energy at a property’s peak-use time. A Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) may not store enough energy to power the building throughout the entirety of a bleak midwinter, but it can be deployed tactfully to reduce both energy bills and carbon emissions.
The concept of storing surplus energy at the place of consumption is growing in popularity. As battery technology evolves, so too do our options when it comes to using BESS as a means of preserving an energy supply – creating economic savings, lowering carbon output, and increasing grid resilience. Benefits that are amplified when a building has that capacity to generate its own energy e.g. via solar panels to sell back to the grid at a profit.
Batteries and sustainability
External factors, including temperature and occupancy, have an impact upon the energy a building consumes and, by extension, batteries can be used to supplement building power requirements during peak times. Predicting these factors can be a challenge, and there’s a fine balance to strike between calculating the needed energy and supplying the correct levels for any given day.
When it comes to green energy, “clean” producers like wind, solar, and tidal currently are not currently able to guarantee a consistent supply of energy. Buildings therefore can use batteries to store clean energy when it is at its most plentiful, for use in low-production times. The risk not considering batteries in this use case is that a “green” building will be tapping into the grid’s potentially “un-green” energy when supplies of green energy are running low.
So, how can the humble office adequately claim that it is meeting sustainability mandates? Taking a look at the likes of Meta and Apple, we can see that they have built renewable power plants that offset their own energy use. Admittedly, the luxury of offsetting via private power plants is one only available to the biggest and richest of companies – so what do the in-between options look like for CRE today?
Well, firstly there’s microgrids – a system that allows buildings to buy and sell energy from one another. This uses up surplus energy in an efficient way.
Further, equipping buildings with the ability to store clean energy at times when it is most abundant is a fix that’s both scalable and suitable for the smaller fish in the “big tech” pond. A world that sees individual properties optimizing clean energy consumption, offsetting the upfront costs with long-term savings, will be a more carbon conscious world, empowering buildings to truly harness the power to power themselves.