Enel Builds New York City’s Biggest Battery, With a Twist

The city is a tough nut for storage developers, but Enel proved it has the cracker.

Enel X has completed the largest battery storage project in New York City, using an unusual business model to break through in a tough market.

New York City consumes a tremendous amount of electricity in a congested part of the grid, creating potential business opportunities for batteries to store power locally without emitting pollution. But the price of land, urban density and stringent fire safety protocols have made it nearly impossible for developers to get batteries up and running.

Enel X — technically Demand Energy, which was later acquired by Enel — was the first to crack the code. The company built the Marcus Garvey Apartments battery in 2017, which offered resilient backup to an affordable housing community while supplying peak power for utility Con Edison so it could avoid a costly substation upgrade. That project looks quaint by today’s standards: It comprises just 300 kilowatts/1,200 kilowatt-hours of lithium-ion batteries.

The new battery delivers 4.8 megawatts/16.4 megawatt-hours, making it the largest grid battery in the five boroughs of New York City, according to Wood Mackenzie’s database of energy storage projects. It’s a sign that large-scale urban storage development is possible in the New York market, which sprang to life recently with help from a bevy of state policies and incentives.

“While the value of energy storage in such a complicated and congested region made such deployments inevitable, it’s a testament to the maturing industry that such a project could move forward given the tough regulatory hoops to jump through, particularly surrounding safety,” said Daniel Finn-Foley, WoodMac’s director of energy storage research.

New York state had 47 megawatts of advanced storage operating as of Q3, putting it in fifth place among single-state markets, according to WoodMac data. All told, Enel’s new project added a 10 percent boost to the state’s cumulative battery activity.

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