If businesses can make the economics of energy storage work, we all stand to benefit indirectly. Individual buildings could use batteries to store on-site wind and solar power, helping make the grid cleaner. And the closer energy storage is to the end consumer, the more reliable the system as a whole is, says EPRI’s Kamath. For example, tenets of apartments with energy storage could have some electricity service even during a power outage.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which knocked out electricity service for millions of people, reliability has become a much higher priority for grid planners, helping to fuel interest in energy storage, says Francis Murray, the CEO of the nonprofit New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). “As we rebuild in cities and reinvest in areas that were severely damaged, we need to rebuild smartly so our infrastructure is more resilient and we can rebound more quickly,” he says. A battery in the basement will be a test of whether DIY energy storage becomes a ubiquitous fixture of urban high-rises: If they can make it there, they’ll make it anywhere.