Energy Storage Requirements for Achieving 50% Solar Photovoltaic Energy Penetration in California

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


We estimate the storage required to enable PV penetration up to 50% in California (with renewable penetration over 66%), and we quantify the complex relationships among storage, PV penetration, grid flexibility, and PV costs due to increased curtailment. We find that the storage needed depends strongly on the amount of other flexibility resources deployed. With very low-cost PV (three cents per kilowatt-hour) and a highly flexible electric power system, about 19 gigawatts of energy storage could enable 50% PV penetration with a marginal net PV levelized cost of energy (LCOE) comparable to the variable costs of future combined-cycle gas generators under carbon constraints. This system requires extensive use of flexible generation, transmission, demand response, and electrifying one quarter of the vehicle fleet in California with largely optimized charging. A less flexible system, or more expensive PV would require significantly greater amounts of storage. The amount of storage needed to support very large amounts of PV might fit within a least-cost framework driven by declining storage costs and reduced storage-duration needs due to high PV penetration.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages45
StatePublished - 2016

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-66595


  • California
  • energy storage
  • PV
  • solar photovoltaics


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