New York City is getting its biggest battery system yet

Con Edison said it’s about to begin operating a 7.5 MW battery system in Staten Island as New York grapples with grid reliability concerns and rising power demand.
By Maria Gallucci

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Large rectangular row of white metal battery containers bearing the Tesla logo in red letters. The site is bordered by trees.
Tesla utility-scale batteries installed at Camp Mackall in Aberdeen, North Carolina (Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images)

New York City’s biggest battery system is about to enter into service — just in time to alleviate stress on the electric grid from millions of whirring air-conditioners and spinning fans during the summer season.

Con Edison, the city’s biggest utility, said it will flip the switch next week on a 7.5-megawatt/30-megawatt-hour battery system in Staten Island. The system will fill up with grid power at night, when demand is typically low and electricity is less expensive. As the sweltering heat pushes people to consume more power, the battery can return that electricity over a period of four hours.

We are deploying batteries to help maintain the industry-leading reliable electric service that our region needs and our customers deserve,” Matthew Ketschke, Con Edison’s president, said on Tuesday during the NYC Solar and Storage Summit in Manhattan.

The battery sits inside the utility’s substation in Fox Hills, a dense neighborhood in the borough of some 476,000 people. The system includes 11 Tesla Megapacks, each of which contains 19 battery modules and its own inverter. Together, they can supply enough electricity to charge the equivalent of 1.5 million cell phones, the utility said.

Across the country, utility-scale storage installations are also catching on as grid operators look to balance the influx of intermittent clean energy sources like wind and solar power.

In 2022, the United States added more than 4 gigawatts of energy storage, making the country’s total battery storage operating capacity 80 percent higher than it was in 2021. Battery installations grew even as U.S. utility-scale solar and wind developments declined last year due to supply-chain bottlenecks, long interconnection queues and permitting delays.

Utility workers work between rows of white cabinets at a utility substation
Utility workers install a 7.5-megawatt battery system in Staten Island. (Con Edison)

For New York, utilities and regulators are eyeing the technology to help tackle the state’s two major challenges: keeping the grid running smoothly while also powering the entire economy with clean energy.

New York aims to get 70 percent of the state’s power from renewable sources by 2030, up from roughly 30 percent today. At the same time, both the city and state have adopted ambitious policies to replace petroleum-guzzling vehicles with battery-powered cars, trucks and buses. They’re also mandating that new buildings meet their heating and cooking needs with electricity, not gas-burning appliances, which will in turn increase power demand.

Ketschke noted that, along with preventing summer blackouts, the Staten Island project greatly increases our opportunities to integrate clean, renewable power into the mix and transition to a low-carbon future.”

The New York Independent System Operator has warned that efforts to retire fossil fuel plants and electrify buildings and vehicles could threaten the future reliability of the electric grid — unless companies build more battery storage systems, renewable power projects and long-distance transmission lines to keep up with rising electricity use.

To that end, Governor Kathy Hochul (D) has called for installing 6 gigawatts of energy storage statewide by 2030, which represents at least one-fifth of the state’s peak electricity consumption.

Hundreds of megawatts’ worth of grid batteries are now operating, and 1,300 megawatts of projects are now under contract in New York. But utility companies have otherwise been slow to meet state mandates for adding storage capacity, owing in part to convoluted economic incentive structures and unappealing contract terms, as Canary Media has previously reported.

In New York City, the dense urban environment presents its own set of challenges for developers, regulators and safety officials. Little land is available for installing large lithium-ion battery systems, and putting the technology inside presents a host of complications.

At the Javits Center, a giant convention center in Manhattan, getting permission for 3.5-megawatt indoor battery system required obtaining special permits and waivers from city and state agencies, as well as the Fire Department of New York. The high-capacity battery system will sit inside a parking-garage-like room that engineers have designed with multiple layers of protection, including insulated walls and emergency systems to put out flames or contain leaking gases.

Con Edison said it avoided such challenges with its Staten Island project by installing the battery system on its own property, a move the utility said also reduced its costs and minimized inconveniences to neighbors. On top of using the 7.5-megawatt battery to support grid reliability, Con Edison will also sell the system’s electricity into the state’s wholesale energy market to generate additional revenue.

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Maria Gallucci is a senior reporter at Canary Media. She covers emerging clean energy technologies and efforts to electrify transportation and decarbonize heavy industry.