Solar powered Citi Bikes? Yes indeed. They run off of a simple "off grid" solar battery system. The bikes themselves are, as you might guess, human powered, but the system that manages the bikes needs electricity to function.
In the first of our series of posts on Solar In The City we look at batteries and solar. Talk about reality for a bit, and then make some suggestions about future use.
When we speak with people about going solar in NYC we get alot of questions. Sometimes people want to know about how batteries work with solar. Unfortunately what many think is just the standard way to go solar, is in fact, not standard at all.. and we don't see it being standard for another few years.
Believe me, we have looked at offering Solar+Batteries quite a bit, and the reality is that battery technologies such as Lithium Ion (much preferred) chemistry are extremely difficult to get approved by the DOB. Lead acid is less difficult but it comes with all of the maintenance headaches that most homeowners want to avoid (solar installers as well).
The other issue is Net Metering. Currently, if one were to attempt to have a "hybrid" grid tied solar and battery system ConEdison would not allow that system to benefit from net metering. The rationale there is that if batteries are storing power, then they may just not need the solar, and could possibly feed the grid with battery power..which ConEdison does not want to give the benefits of Net Metering. Fair ask for the time being.
Changes are a comin' though in the coming years as the newly ratified REV standards become reality. You can read up on what's happening with them here: NY REV . The vision for this new way of working is to enable every electricity customer to also become some form of producer. As this become reality- Solar + Batteries will finally have a much more economically viable value to homeowners and businesses alike.
Lets say you just want to ignore everything I have just written and just go for it to get some solar + batteries so you can be an "Urban Prepper". We'll we would suggest a few things: 1) take a few of the panels you have planned for your solar install and run them directly to a charge controller, and battery bank. 2) Use AGM batteries to reduce maintenance 3) Have your solar installer install a disconnect which when grid power goes out (and so does your grid tied solar), you can flip your own switch and draw on the battery power via an off grid battery inverter. 4) Be prepared to not use this set up more than a few times every few years. You have basically created an off grid solar powered generator, and its unlikely you will need it very often.
In the future, as the role of batteries change, we will see much greater integration with the grid as well as a greater support role batteries will play for your daily electricity use. So for the most part we don't suggest people go with batteries right away, rather go solar now with grid tied, and contemplate adding batteries later. Even design some parts of your grid tied system to make room down the line. We'll be happy to help you with that.