Promoting Elevators as Renewable Resource

Lewis Kwit, President of EIS, has worked to promote the proliferation of “green” technologies for decades; the company has most recently turned to advance the implementation of “green” elevator technologies, in particular, regenerative drives, or regen. EIS is collaborating with the C.V. Starr Research Foundation at the Cooper Union and elevator industry leaders in a NYSERDA-sponsored research project to assess some of the basic issues that limit the proliferation of this technology.

There are some 59,000 elevators in New York City and another 10,000 across the rest of New York State. Among the most frequently used modes of transportation worldwide, the traction elevator is so energy efficient that it has received little attention within the energy field. Regenerative drive technology enables elevators to produce cost-effective onsite electricity without burning fuel and increasing carbon footprints. The electricity is generated by the gravitational pull of elevator cabs and counterweights in traction elevator systems, hence, we call the concept “capturing gravity.” Regen is increasingly incorporated in new high-rise construction and new regen technologies make it possible to retrofit existing elevators.

EIS will work with 20 New York City buildings in the initial study, which will incorporate input from a variety of public agencies, industry professionals, and trade organizations.

EIS has also identified the potential for greater benefits from regenerative electricity generation when paired with variable electricity pricing. Designated as a “load pocket,” New York City cannot import more than 20 percent of its power from outside its borders during peak demand periods. This means older, less efficient plants must be brought on line to satisfy its rush hour appetite for electricity. As a result, prices are considerably higher during rush hour peaks when office elevators are in a generating mode (i.e., heavy cars down, lightweight cars up). The application of regen can profoundly affect these economics.

EIS, in collaboration with the C.V. Starr Research Foundation at the Cooper Union, petitioned the New York State Public Service Commission to establish regenerative drives as a renewable resource, eligible for incentives in the customer-sited tier (read the petition). The petition received substantial support from leaders in the government, non-profit, academic, manufacturing, and property management sectors, and was covered by Forbes. EIS continues to develop and refine the adoption framework for regenerative drives as a renewable technology.