by Lisa Laughner/president and CEO, Go Electric
In 2018, extreme weather and power outages wreaked havoc across the U.S. Grocery stores have been particularly vulnerable to the consequences of these events; one outage can wipe out a store’s annual profitably due to food spoilage and loss of sales.
Historically, food retail businesses have installed backup generators to support store operations during a grid outage, but over the past few years, some retailers have been embracing new technologies like batteries to improve the energy efficiency of their operations while supporting green initiatives.
While these grid-connected batteries reduce energy costs through peak shaving and load shifting under normal grid conditions, they are rendered useless as soon as the power goes out. Food retailers need reliable technology that can provide energy resiliency, keeping the lights on and doors open during a grid outage while providing reduced energy costs year-round.
Not all battery installations are alike
Food retailers need to know that batteries installed for energy efficiency services do not provide energy resiliency during an outage.
The key difference in a battery resiliency installation is the ability to safely island the store away from the grid during an outage. This type of system requires a more complex installation and includes a breaker between the building and the utility.
During an outage, the breaker is opened to separate the store from the grid, allowing the batteries and other on-site energy assets (solar panels, generators, etc.) to keep operating safely.
By islanding away from the grid, the store becomes energy independent by creating its own microgrid. Electrical loads are sustained by the store’s energy assets until the grid returns. If the energy system includes an advanced microgrid controller, renewable assets keep operating, helping ensure energy security.
Monetizing energy resiliency investment through battery storage
Advanced battery energy storage can “stack value” and maximize a store’s energy asset utilization. Batteries provide energy efficiency services: peak shaving, peak demand management, load shifting or Time-of-Use (TOU) optimization. All of these capabilities lower energy costs.
In some utility areas, batteries act as “virtual power plants” and provide demand response services to support grid stability. Utilities pay their system owners to engage in demand response programs, allowing energy assets to “earn a paycheck” and pay for themselves.
The payback period for battery energy storage systems with full-stacking capabilities is less than five years. Some battery energy storage and microgrid vendors have business models whereby the customer receives the batteries for free and shares its energy savings and/or demand response income with the vendor.
The combination of advanced technology and income earning opportunity offers store owners energy resiliency with real ROI and long-term payoffs.
Strengthening communities through resiliency-ready grocery stores
One of the most under-recognized yet most important outcomes for grocery stores investing in energy resiliency is their ability to keep providing continuous services to their communities during grid outages.
Grocery stores are able to preserve and sell food, fill critical pharmaceutical prescriptions and meet vehicle fueling needs. Grocery stores can become an oasis for their communities during grid outages, providing additional services including cell phone charging, fresh water access or simply a meeting space for community members to congregate.
For businesses who are committed to social responsibility goals, becoming energy resilient and providing stability is one of the most important contributions they can make to support their community at large.