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To get a better understanding of the energy storage market, panelists at the NECA seminar on Energy Storage Systems urged attendees to visit the Net Zero Energy project at the IBEW/NECA Electrical Training Institute, in Los Angeles, a 144,000-sq-ft Net Zero Plus retrofit that features a microgrid, battery energy storage, advanced control systems, and various energy-efficient electrical systems.

Getting Ready for Energy Storage

New business opportunities exist in energy storage for electrical contractors, but industry experts caution it’s best for them to start with the smaller residential jobs.

Energy storage solutions cover quite a range of applications, from the relatively simple residential solutions like Tesla’s PowerWall, to UPS or battery storage for hospitals and other institutional or commercial applications, to storage for utility-scale renewable generating facilities like wind farms or utilities’ solar fields.

Panelists for the NECA Show seminar “Contractor Challenges and Successes in Energy Storage” work in different facets of the energy storage market. Dan Cohee leads the design, implementation, integration and construction of advanced energy storage and distributed generation projects for Morrow-Meadows Corp., City of Industry, Calif. According to his bio, prior to Morrow-Meadows’ recent acquisition of PDE Total Energy Solutions, he helped the PDE team develop an off-grid energy storage system supporting a 1MW solar installation and desalinization reverse osmosis plant, which produced more than 250,000 gallons of fresh water daily and used 100% renewable energy. He was also the principal investigator at PDE’s Battery Energy Storage project at 29 Palms Marine Corps Base in California and microgrid projects at the Port Hueneme Naval Base, also in California. Cohee also led a team to develop the Net Zero Energy project at the Los Angeles IBEW/NECA Electrical Training Institute, a 144,000-sq-ft Net Zero Plus retrofit featuring a microgrid, battery energy storage, advanced control systems, and various energy-efficient electrical systems.

Mike Joyce, CEO of Zenith Systems, a Cleveland-based electrical contractor, has installed energy storage systems at military bases around the United States, and works closely with vendors, including Siemens and Johnson Controls, on these projects. Joe Marrone is vice president of construction for Miller Brothers, a Philadelphia area utility contractor that installs utility-scale energy storage and microgrid jobs, including the SEPTA transit battery energy storage project. SEPTA is Philadelphia primary mass transit rail system.

The three panelists agreed that any electrical contractors interested in energy storage should start with small jobs and move into bigger projects as they gain experience. Cohee from Morrow-Meadows said smaller electrical contractors may want to start with residential energy storage projects, and that medium-sized contractors may find some of their existing commercial accounts may eventually need help on energy-storage systems. He said key contacts at customers will be the senior executives looking for financial incentives from energy storage systems, which are often built in tandem with a renewable generating facility.

The large, utility-scale projects are really only for the largest electrical contractors that typically have pre-existing business relationships with electric utilities and understand the complex regulations governing renewable energy and other off-grid generating facilities. Joe Marrone with Miller Brothers says the market for energy storage in the Northeast is gaining momentum because many of the utilities in that region are being forced to retrofit their aging infrastructure. “I think the market is here,” he said. “From the utility contractors’ point of view, the infrastructure is failing, and utilities are looking for solutions. I see a decade-long run ahead.”

The panelists agreed that one way for electrical contractors to familiarize themselves with the energy storage market is to meet vendors at trade shows that focus on the market, such as the Energy Storage International show being held in Salt Lake City, Utah, from Sept. 23-26. It’s part of the Solar Power International event being held at the same location. They also urged electrical contractors to invest in NECA’s Energy Storage + Microgrid Training & Certification (ESAMTAC) program offered in conjunction with Penn State University, the National Fire Protection Institute (NFPA), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and several other electrical organizations.

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