Energy Storage Analysis

Chad Hunter, Evan Reznicek, Michael Penev, Josh Eichman, Sam Baldwin

Research output: NRELPresentation


This study presents a comprehensive techno-economic characterization of energy storage and exible low carbon power generation technologies that can shift energy across days, weeks, or months to balance daily, weekly, and seasonal disparities in supply and demand. Energy storage technologies evaluated here include pumped hydropower storage (PHS), adiabatic and diabatic compressed air energy storage (CAES), vanadium redox flow batteries (VRBs), pumped thermal energy storage (P-TES), and renewably produced hydrogen stored in either geologic formations or underground pipes with re-electrification via combustion turbines in combined cycles, stationary proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, or the novel use of PEM fuel cells designed for heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) which are expected to have shorter lives but also lower capital costs. We also evaluate flexible low-carbon power generation systems, including ethanol combustion in gas turbines and natural gas combustion with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). We estimate current costs with literature data, use learning rates to characterize future costs, and develop capacity factors calibrated to an 85% renewables grid to calculate the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of each technology. Results illustrate that at the 12-hour storage duration, PHS and CAES have the lowest LCOE with current costs, and VRBs become competitive if future costs are achieved. At the 120-hour storage duration, hydrogen systems with geologic storage and natural gas with CCS achieve the lowest LCOE in both current and future capital cost scenarios. In particular, the new configuration of HDV-PEM fuel cells with hydrogen storage in geologic formations evaluated here could lower the LCOE by 22-27% compared to stationary fuel cell systems typically evaluated and might help enable very high (>80%) renewable energy electric power systems. P-TES and hydrogen stored in underground pipes are the least-cost options at the 120-hour storage duration rating that do not require some form of geologic storage. Sensitivity analysis and Monte Carlo analysis illustrate that the general trends seen in this study are valid for a wide range of capacity factors and future cost scenarios. The study also illustrates that coproducing and selling hydrogen to other markets could reduce the LCOE of hydrogen systems by up to 39%.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages25
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NamePresented at the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program 2020 Annual Merit Review and Peer Evaluation, 15-19 June 2020

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5400-77833


  • carbon capture and sequestration
  • combined cycle
  • combustion turbine
  • compressed air energy storage
  • energy storage
  • flexible power generation
  • fuel cell
  • hydrogen
  • long duration
  • pumped hydropower
  • techno-economic analysis
  • vanadium redox flow batteries


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