At the start of the process, I was aiming to write a paper focusing on how battery storage could be implemented in low income and affordable multifamily housing in the Chicago market. The upcoming Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) having specific goals for photovoltaic (PV) generation in low income and affordable markets.(Sen. Chapin Rose – Christine Radogno – Donne E. Trotter – Neil Anderson, Dave Syverson, Robert Rita, Lawrence Walsh, Jr.,Bill Mitchell – William Davis – Ed Sullivan, John C. D’Amico, Edward J. Acevedo, Michael W. Tryon, Patrick J. Verschoore) ) I thought it would make sense to pair solar and storage to take advantage of the common infrastructure of these two technologies. Research so far has supported this idea, but the barriers to implementing battery storage are greater than I had been anticipating. The economics of battery storage are hampered by their classification and other uncertainties in the market. There are certainly regions were battery storage, usually paired with PV generation, are economically competitive for the right investors. At present, the economics are not favorable for low income and affordable multifamily housing entities to pursue battery storage or even solar+storage in the Chicago area. This has caused a slight refocusing of this paper, namely: What are the advantages of and barriers to solar+storage in the Chicago area and what methods can be used to alleviate these barriers and drive this market?
Following the adage, “those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it,” we are periodically reminded that the most vulnerable in our society operate with few fail safes or redundancies. Chicago’s heatwave of 1995 caused 739 heat related deaths, with a disproportionate number occurring in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Similarly, the 35,000 European deaths from the August 2003 heatwave were not equally distributed across the population. (Christopher R. Browning et al. 661-678) Katrina and its aftermath in August 2005 left 1300 dead, again the most vulnerable taking the brunt. (Colten, Kates, and Laska 36-47) There has been progress on improving back up capability for critical buildings, such as hospitals and facilities that care for the elderly. But natural gas or diesel generators are expensive and require skilled maintenance staff and preventative maintenance. The only low-income or affordable multifamily facilities I have seen in Chicago that have had generators have been senior facilities. Even those are few and far between. This is where I see solar+storage and its resilience factor having an important role.
A quick digression to attempts to make phone calls in Africa in the 1990’s. Stationed in “a very small place” about 50km from the nearest payphone, making a phone call was a full day hitch hiking excursion. And the phones often were out of service. A calculation of what it would take to get a phone for each person in Africa (and other developing nations) concluded there was not enough copper in the world to accomplish that; getting phones to everyone was impossible. But in the last few weeks, after two years in the very small place, a cellphone tower went up. What was impossible became common place due to technology improvements.
It is not possible to have diesel or natural gas back up generators in multifamily housing in disadvantaged communities. The expense and maintenance issues are in surmountable. But energy efficiency has been implemented through incentives and programs, and the structure for PV implementation is in the FEJA. Solar+storage is becoming more economical and there are money generating mechanisms that improve the economics. With proper incentives and requirements, solar+storage should follow in the footsteps of energy efficiency and PV to overcome the current barriers. Saving money for the tenants of low-income and affordable housing is a critical mission but the resiliency factor, while impossible to value, is probably even more important.
Christopher R. Browning, et al. “Neighborhood Social Processes, Physical Conditions, and Disaster-Related Mortality: The Case of the 1995 Chicago Heat Wave.” American Sociological Review 71.4 (2006): 661-78. CrossRef. Web.
Colten, Craig E., Robert W. Kates, and Shirley B. Laska. “Three Years After Katrina: Lessons for Community Resilience.” Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development September 1, 2008: 36-47. Print.
Sen. Chapin Rose – Christine Radogno – Donne E. Trotter – Neil Anderson, Dave Syverson, Robert Rita, Lawrence Walsh, Jr.,Bill Mitchell – William Davis – Ed Sullivan, John C. D’Amico, Edward J. Acevedo, Michael W. Tryon, Patrick J. Verschoore). SB2814 Public Act 099-0906. Tran. IL Senate and House. , 2016. Print.