Resilience for Free: How Solar+Storage Could Protect Multifamily Affordable Housing from Power Outages at Little or No Net Cost

This report from the Clean Energy Group uses project data for buildings in New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., to examine the financial case for installing solar photovoltaics (PV) and battery storage systems (“solar+storage”) to support multifamily affordable housing. With the right market structures and incentives, solar+storage systems can provide an economic return, on par with energy efficiency or stand-alone solar. They can also help make affordable housing energy resilient by guaranteeing power for common area lighting, water, and communications. Hence, there is the potential to protect vulnerable residents at little to no net cost over the lifetime of a project. In some cases, the addition of batteries further enhances project economics by generating significant electric bill savings through reducing utility demand charges and creating revenue by providing grid services.

Make the economic case for solar and storage in affordable housing.  

The authors offer a reminder about the impacts of Superstorm Sandy to demonstrate the particular risks facing elderly, disabled, low-income, and other vulnerable residents who lose power. When outages eliminate access to elevators, mobility devices, medical equipment, refrigeration for medicine, and other essential services, the risks can be life-threatening. Traditional backup power in the form of diesel generators still depend on fuel deliveries and are prone to failure. Community-based resilient power such as solar+storage can protect the people who have the greatest difficulty responding and recovering from extreme weather events and related power outages.

Among the three cities analyzed, Washington, DC, is predicted to have some of the strongest returns and fastest payback periods (3.5 years) from resilient power projects. On the other hand, New York City demonstrates the need for additional targeted support for projects that incorporate battery storage, as markets and savings opportunities are less established. In the report’s conclusion, the authors outline an incentive program that could improve outcomes in New York City and similar markets.


Publication Date: October 14, 2015

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Lew Milford
  • Robert Sanders
  • Seth Mullendore

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  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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